A Cambodian man who has been detained by immigration officials for nine months was expected to be temporarily released ahead of his scheduled deportation after a federal court judge in Boston said in a Christmas Eve ruling that the man had been “irreparably harmed by ICE’s unlawful conduct."
Seoun Kim, a Cambodian man born in a refugee camp in Thailand, has been detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement since March, when he was told to report to them because “it appeared ICE would soon obtain the documents necessary to remove him to Cambodia," according to court documents. Kim is married to a US citizen and has two children — ages two and five months — who are both US citizens.
Kim came to the United States as a refugee and had become a permanent resident, but lost that status when he committed “serious crimes” that were not disclosed, according to the court, and spent 14 years in prison. He was released from prison in 2014 and “ordered removed to Cambodia,” but ICE released him on “certain conditions," none of which he violated.
When he was ordered to report in March, he “did not flee. Rather, he voluntarily surrendered as directed,” according to court documents.
In his Tuesday ruling, Judge Mark Wolf took issue with the fact that ICE officials never interviewed Kim while he was in custody, despite requirements to do so within about three months.
“An interview is not a mere formality,” he wrote. “Although the written record may suggest that continued detention is appropriate, an interview focused on the unique circumstances and attributes of an individual can alter that assessment.
“An interview would have permitted Kim to explain, among other things, that: he had complied with the conditions of his release for four years; he voluntarily reported to ICE as ordered; he is devoted to his family and has worked to support them; and he has become a committed Catholic,” the judge continued. “If ICE had discharged its duty to discuss these matters with Kim, there is a reasonable likelihood that it would have decided to release him rather than to use some of its limited jail space to continue his detention.”
Wolf ruled to have Kim released for at least 14 days — “but not prohibiting his removal [by ICE officials] in that period." Kim is currently scheduled to be deported on Jan. 5, 2020.
“As respondents have repeatedly acknowledged in this case, separation of an alien from his or her citizen spouse and children is a form of irreparable harm...” Wolf wrote. “Therefore, the opportunity to spend time with his family now is especially precious and irreplaceable.”
Kim has a separate case pending about the overall legality of his deportation. Wolf decided not to make a decision on that matter and instead leave it to the judge handling that case.