CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Two teens, who a federal lawsuit says crossed the Mexican border to enter the United States, are currently being held at the Al Cannon Detention Center in Charleston County.
Their claims of unlawful detention center around their ages, and they ended up in Charleston because the Al Cannon Detention Center is the only facility in the state with a federal contract with ICE to hold detainees.
“They haven’t been accused of any crime, and this has nothing to do with criminal detention whatsoever,” said Brad Banias, the attorney for these cases. “Instead, they are being held while they make claims of well-founded fears of persecution in their countries of nationality.”
Court documents say they fled their home country of Bangladesh after political persecution.
One teen, referred to as A.H. in court documents, traveled for nearly a year to escape.
“During his nearly year long escape through Dubai, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico, the smuggler instructed A.H. to claim to be an adult,” the lawsuit said.
Court documents claim the smuggler gave the teen a passport with a fake birth date that made him older than the 17 years of age he would confess to be after he was captured by US Customs and Border Protection.
The lawsuit says the teen had a birth certificate and other documents to prove his true age, but his birth date was recorded incorrectly by officials and the Department of Health and Human Services was not contacted, something that is typically done with immigration cases involving children.
“Anyone under 18 is considered a child, and these two individuals, as the petition alleges, arrived without a parent, without a legal guardian, without immigration status, qualify under the law as a thing called an “unaccompanied alien child,” Banias said. “Unaccompanied alien children, rightfully so, go through a completely different process.”
“As a matter of policy, ICE does not comment on pending litigation. That said, absence of comment should in no way be construed that Ice thinks an allegation has any merit,” said Bryan Cos, the South Region Spokesman for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“It’s essential to get their claim to liberty done quickly,” Banias said. “Because first off, these cases can moot out very quickly, if they are ordered removed and deported then their case is over. And secondly, you don’t want to be stuck in jail one hour longer than you have to, especially when we have children being detained with adults.”
Charleston County Sheriff’s office has not yet responded for comment on this story.