A tragic and impactful pro bono case handled by the ACLU and GYH made headlines today, when NBC News published the story of Jessica Barahona-Martínez’s six-year battle to be freed from ICE detention, where she was held, largely on the basis of an illegitimate Interpol Red Notice.

You can also listen to a podcast about this case on the Dirty Work series by Sky News.

Co-Managing Partner Sandra Grossman led the charge to have the Red Notice for Ms. Barahona-Martínez deleted. Grossman and her team were able to get the Red Notice deleted in just three weeks, a process which usually takes nine months, paving the way for Ms. Barahona-Martínez’s release in 2023. Attorneys Patrick Taurel and Ariel Rawls were also instrumental parts of the legal team handling this meaningful pro bono case.

NBC details the flagrant human right violations suffered by Ms. Barahona-Martinez. After facing abuse in her home country based on her LGBTQ status and retaliatory actions from police officers whose advances she rebuffed, including a false extortion accusation (amounting to less than $30), Barahona-Martínez came to the U.S. seeking asylum. Instead of finding safety and protection, and despite the fact that she won asylum twice, ICE maintained her in detention, due to multiple appeals filed by the government. Ms. Barahona-Martinez is out of detention but continues to fight for her right to remain in the United States.

Grossman describes this case as one of the most egregious examples she has ever seen of the harm that can come from an illegitimate red notice. Unfortunately, it is one of many. As grateful as she is to be released, Ms. Barahona-Martínez describes it as a time of mixed emotions. “An ugly fear gripped me,” she says. “I realized I was afraid to be out again.” Her children still fear that she could be ripped away from them again and brought back to detention or deported back to her initial abusers.

Ms. Barahona-Martínez now hopes her case “reaches the eyes and ears of those working on immigration.” She says, “it’s very painful to see, hear and to feel the injustice I went through and that many of us immigrants have to go through.”

ICE recently issued new guidance for how its officers should address Red Notices. Grossman says that while this is a promising step forward, the guidance still lacks language requiring ICE to apply these new directives to existing cases — not just upcoming ones. Grossman is encouraged by the fact that ICE continues to engage with stakeholders on how to stop Interpol abuse in the US.

Interpol abuse has gained more attention in recent years, including through the passage of a provision in the NDAA of FY 2022 which calls for greater monitoring of Interpol abuse. Still government agencies and advocates alike agree that there is far more work to be done.

Contact Us for more information about our International Protection Practice or for assistance with your human rights concerns.