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National Immigrant Justice Center Demands Delay of Man’s Deportation, Full Investigation of November 9 Beating

James Chesire with his wife, Pamela
James Chesire with his wife

A man who has been detained and awaiting deportation to Kenya for nearly two years filed a federal lawsuit today alleging that on November 9, five federal immigration officers assaulted him in a cell at a Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office in downtown Chicago, at one point knocking him unconscious.

James Chesire, represented by pro bono attorneys at Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP and the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), says the ICE officers attacked him when he refused to fingerprint or sign unidentified documents the officers refused to let him read.

ICE denied Mr. Chesire’s request for a stay of removal on Monday, prompting a call-in campaign demanding that the government not deport him before the assault is investigated and the officers involved are held accountable. NIJC is asking supporters to call ICE Field Office Director Ricardo Wong at 312-347-2400 and demand that ICE not deport Mr. Chesire while he has a pending civil rights investigation.

“There is no justification for the violent treatment that Mr. Chesire maintains he suffered at the hands of ICE officers,” said Claudia Valenzuela, director of NIJC’s Detention Project. “In a climate in which hate and race-related crimes are on the rise, it is important that the federal officers who carry out our immigration laws be held accountable for respecting the human and civil rights of the people in their custody. We adamantly reject a law enforcement culture that allows officers to harm any individual with impunity.”

Mr. Chesire says the officers twisted his finger to forcibly obtain his fingerprint, and when he insisted that he be allowed to read the documents before signing them, the officers slammed him to the ground and handcuffed him. Over the course of the assault, he says, the officers used racial slurs, held his neck so he struggled to breathe and slammed his head against a wall so that he lost consciousness.

Mr. Chesire later was taken to Rush University Medical Center, where records show he was treated for head and elbow injuries, as well as a sprained shoulder and ankle.

Mr. Chesire has lived in the United States since 1998. His wife and four children are all U.S. citizens. An immigration judge ordered Mr. Chesire to be deported in 2014, but his removal was delayed as the U.S. sought travel documents from Kenya. In the weeks before the alleged assault, Mr. Chesire had filed a habeas lawsuit challenging his prolonged detention and understood his deportation to be imminent.

Supporters should call ICE Field Office Director Ricardo Wong at 312-347-2400 and demand that ICE not deport Mr. Chesire while he has a pending civil rights investigation.