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Attorneys seek to release man jailed by ICE since 2017

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(Daniel Montes/Bay City News)

Supporters of a Richmond man who has been jailed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for more than a year and a half rallied Friday outside the U.S. Federal Building ahead of a hearing to seek his release.

Attorneys for Raul Lopez, 46, have petitioned his case to the Federal District Court, in hopes of ending his detention.

Lopez, a Guatemalan immigrant who has lived in the United States for 29 years, was initially being held at the West County Detention Facility in Richmond since he was first detained by ICE in March 2017. But since the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office terminated its contract to house ICE detainees in September, he’s been moved to a facility in Aurora, Colo.

Although Lopez’s habeas corpus petition hearing was heard today, U.S. Magistrate Sally Kim said she could not a make a decision on whether to require the government to release him or give him a new bond hearing.

“It’s really unjust that he’s being detained,” said Lopez’s attorney, Daniel Werner with Dolores Community Services. “The habeas release is a way to challenge detention by the executive that would otherwise be unchecked.”

Werner said Lopez’s case is just one of many in which he said the federal government appears to be targeting immigrants and refugees for detention.

Dianeth Lopez, Raul’s wife, and their two teenage children attended today’s hearing. Dianeth said she spoke to Raul Lopez Thursday.

“He’s happy because of today’s hearing, but he’s still sad because it’s the holidays and he’s so far away. For us not being able to see him is so hard,” she said.

Before being detained by ICE, Raul already had a pending immigration case when he was charged for the third time for driving while under the influence. He served two months in jail and was placed on house arrest for that crime.

But in March 2017, when he went to a check-in appointment at the San Francisco ICE office, he was taken into custody and has remained jailed since.

Before being transferred to the Colorado facility earlier this year, Raul Lopez’s daughter held her quinceanera, or 15th birthday celebration, outside the West County Detention Facility to protest his detainment.

-Daniel Montes, Bay City News

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