Separated from his wife and children by ICE, an undocumented man tries desperately to return home.
January 2, 2019Shahid Haque
The New Republic reports on the case of our client:
On October 10, Audemio was transferred back to Montana, where he passed through an ICE office in Helena en route to the Cascade County jail. At the ICE office, a Jefferson County investigator and an ICE agent interviewed him, with Blanca Chapa translating via speakerphone from Idaho. They kept Audemio in handcuffs, as if he were the suspect and not the victim. Describing his rape, Audemio broke down and cried. He asked for the attorney he’d hired with help from the Mexican Consulate in Boise, Idaho, but the officers told him his attorney was unavailable.
This was not true. In fact, Shahid Haque, a Helena, Montana-based immigration attorney, was in the building, but was not allowed to see Audemio until after the interview ended. Amid the ensuing media coverage of Audemio’s case—the alleged sexual assault of a deportee while in government custody was newsworthy—there was speculation that Audemio made up the rape story for the purpose of securing a U Visa. Haque told me Audemio didn’t even know what a U Visa was when he reported the incident. At the time, his most urgent concern was getting the HIV prophylactics that had been prescribed for him in Idaho.
A week later, Haque secured Audemio’s release on the order of supervision. In the following months, Audemio repeatedly offered to assist in the investigation—to look at mug shots or a lineup, to comment on testimony from his cellmates—but he would not hear from the investigators again. Still more concerning, when Haque acquired the security camera footage through a court order, he found there were gaps on the night of the assault totaling nearly three and a half hours, including a two-hour block from 2:13 to 4:10 a.m. that coincided with Audemio’s estimation of when the rape occurred. Jefferson County Attorney Matthew Johnson—who fought Haque’s efforts to obtain the evidence, on the grounds that releasing it would jeopardize the pending investigation—said the gaps resulted from motion-sensitive cameras turning off when there was no activity in the cell. “When the video skips,” Johnson said in an email to Haque dated November 7, 2013, “it is because there was no movement for a period of time.” This was a red flag: The video from Audemio’s pod cuts out for the first time at 10:30 p.m., while people are still milling around and very much awake.