Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Documenting ICE Kidnapping and False Imprisonment of US Citizens, Pt. III, cont.

To supplement the reporting on ICE kidnapping and falsely imprisoning US citizens in my Nation article "Thin ICE" (pub date June 23, 2008) I have been providing additional profiles of these cases as well as the sources for the article's statistics and other facts.

This post continues that documentation:

The 2008 ACLU lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security and the Los Angeles County Sheriff on behalf of Peter Guzman, a US citizen born in Los Angeles and "deported" to Mexico by ICEhere. ICE calls it deportation, but the law says that when Guzman told ICE he was born in the US, ICE was supposed to accept his word on this, or prove otherwise. I believe that the government's racial prejudices are not an excuse and that what appears as a case of confusion is simply kidnapping and false imprisonment based on racial profiling.

The February 13, 2008 Congressional hearings in which Department of Homeland Security repeatedly obfuscates, much to the consternation of the Democrats, is available streaming and is a case study in the problems of an Executive branch run amok. The written testimony is available as well. It's here. You might write Congressman Zoe Lofgren, who has been ahead of the curve on the problem of ICE abuses, as well as your representatives and Senators, and let them know how you feel about ICE forcibly removing US citizens from our country.

The estimate of US citizens who were detained for at least one month or deported is based on several sources. The most important is the actual caseload of the Florence Immigration and Refugee Rights Project in southern Arizona. 10% of detainees from around the country are held in their service area. (I write about people to whom FIRRP provided legal advice from Minnesota to California.)

The supervising attorney, Kara Hartzler, told me that they were seeing between 5 to 10 cases a week of people claiming US citizenship, of which between one-third to one-half were recognized as legitimate by an immigration judge. The rest is math: take the total number of these cases and multiply by 10. At the low end of the range, 5 x 224 weeks (the number of weeks between January 2004 and April 2008) = 1120, multiplied by .33 (1/3 successful) is 370 for FIRRP alone. At the high end for the FIRRP estimate, 10 x 224 = 2240; if half (.5) are valid claims, that that would be 1120 cases for FIRRP.

In other words, the range for FIRRP's estimate of its own caseload of US citizens detained or deported by ICE (through coerced "voluntary" agreements signed to avoid more incarceration during ICE appeals of immigration judges' orders terminating deportation) is 370 to 1120. Multiply this by 10, and, if this caseload is representative - the numbers are large enough that there's no reason to quibble with this statistically - indicates that between 2004 and April, 2008 ICE has detained or deported between 3700 and 11,200 US citizens.

This figure is slightly higher than the 3,500 to 10,000 range I used in the article because I wanted to use the ICE denominator of 1 million deportations from 2004-2007, a round number that shows the range I'm estimating is less than 1% of ICE deportations and detentions. The reason to think the FIRRP estimate might be too conservative is what Robert told me of his detention experiences, and his encounter with a large number of US citizens in a situation similar to his own, leading him to say that ICE was "just throwing us out for nothing."

I also verified the high frequency of these deportations by interviewing over a dozen immigration attorneys from across the country, who affirmed their own personal representation of clients who were US citizens in deportation proceedings. It was too easy for just one person doing this research with no other support to find these cases on an ad hoc basis.

As I mentioned in the article, I used the list of pro bono attorneys the Department of Justice is required to make available (and which is a joke, because many of the numbers are disconnected or incorrect: one was for a florist!). Among the working numbers, I called 15 immigration attorneys and 7 returned my calls to report 1-4 cases of US citizens they had successfully represented who had been held by ICE for 1 month to, in the case of Robert, 5 years. The link to that list is here.

TO BE CONTINUED... (Photo is Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, D-CA, Chair, House Judiciary, Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law.)

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