ACLU: Disabled asylum seeker wins humanitarian parole

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A disabled Honduran man who is seeking asylum has been released from detention by immigration authorities in Louisiana, a civil rights group said Thursday.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana says Manuel Amaya Portillo, 23, was granted humanitarian parole and will stay with a sponsor in New Jersey while his asylum case plays out.

He had been detained in Louisiana facilities since October after being picked up for being in the country without authorization.

The ACLU said Amaya Portillo is only about 4 feet (1.2 meters) tall. He has a malformed leg and neurological and heart problems. Amaya Portillo is seeking asylum after suffering persecution in Honduras because of his disability and physical deformities, the ACLU said in a news release.

The ACLU has said immigration authorities failed to provide him with adequate facilities or medical treatment while he was detained, first at a facility in Winnfield, then in Jena.

“The system has failed him from the start,” attorney Eunice Cho said in an interview last week.

In a letter to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials last week, ACLU lawyers said Amaya Portillo had not had access to facilities for the disabled or a wheelchair at Winnfield. He had a wheelchair at Jena, the letter said, but could not navigate it through the detention dormitory and had difficulty using bathroom facilities.

“This is good news, but we can’t lose sight of the fact that there are thousands more asylum seekers suffering from brutal conditions in remote detention centers across the state, many of whom are held in facilities run by private, for profit operators," Katie Schwartzmann, ACLU of Louisiana legal director, said in Thursday's news release.

An email seeking comment from an ICE official in Oakdale, Louisiana, did not receive an immediate response.