The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, alongside the Scott Law Firm, LLC, filed suit in federal court for the release of a Togolese immigrant being detained at Winn Correctional Center in Louisiana.

The petition for habeas corpus asks the District Court for the Western District of Louisiana to release Mr. Kossi Degbe as required by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Zadvydas v. Davis, which ruled that detaining immigrants for longer than six months, when there is no foreseeable prospect of their removal, amounts to indefinite detention and is therefore unlawful.

In total, Mr. Degbe has been in ICE detention for more than three years and seven months. He was previously detained from 2012 to 2015. He was ordered removed in 2012 and despite his timely appeals, the order became final in 2014. Mr. Degbe, with the help of counsel, filed a habeas corpus petition in the District Court of Maryland in 2015, arguing that the Zadvydas ruling rendered his continued detention unlawful because he had been detained for longer than six months after his final removal order was issued. When the court asked ICE to present evidence to justify Mr. Degbe’s continued detention, ICE promptly released him in February 2015. 

Following his release, Mr. Degbe lived in Maryland for five years, where he worked at a WingStop and was an active member of Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church. He attended every required check-in with ICE. Nonetheless, ICE—unexpectedly and without any apparent reason—rearrested Mr. Degbe in February 2020. Although he was initially detained in Maryland, ICE has repeatedly shipped him around the country to facilities in Arizona, Alabama, Texas, and Louisiana, where he is currently detained. 

Mr. Degbe’s counsel is also seeking a preliminary injunction, which, if granted, would allow Mr. Degbe to be released pending a decision on the petition for habeas corpus. Mr. Degbe, who suffers from hypertension and benign prostatic hyperplasia, is bunking next to an individual who recently tested positive for COVID-19.

Date filed

January 29, 2021