Monday, June 16, 2008

Thousands of US Citizens Held or Deported by ICE: Documenting their Cases, Part I


In the article "Thin ICE" published in The Nation magazine (pub. date June 23, 2008), I wrote that since 2004 between 3,500 to 10,000 US citizens had been detained by ICE for one month to five years, and that about half of these citizens had been deported. I also wrote that I had documented 31 of these cases. I have now revised these numbers upward, based on new information on additional cases.

These figures are important because they refute ICE's position that they have deported just one US citizen and that they "do not knowingly detain US citizens." By knowingly detaining US citizens, over whom ICE has no jurisdiction, ICE agents are committing the crime of false imprisonment. When they move US citizens, especially out of the country, against their will, then ICE agents are committing the crime of kidnapping. The attorneys for the people involved have the data from the immigration courts, the prisons, and the documents to back this up. All that is needed is for just a single US attorney to step forward and use this information for a criminal prosecution.

For instance, the case of Neil Rambana's client in Georgia, at the very least has an immigration judge postdating a 2006 order terminating removal proceedings for a US citizen to a 2008 termination order, apparently to justify the continuous illegal incarceration of a US citizen since 2006. He remains incarcerated. (For more on this case, see here and articles tagged David.)

Starting today I will be providing more information on the many cases whose details could not be presented in the Nation article due to space constraints. If anyone wants more information to follow up with the attorneys, please contact me and I can provide that.

There are three types of natural-born citizens, distinct from naturalized citizens. The cases below are all US natural-born citizens, either by birth in the US, or acquired or derived from parents who are US citizens, as was the case for John McCain and George Romney. ICE has no jurisdiction over US citizens.

Under the law anyone telling ICE she was born in the US is presumed to be a US citizen. In order to detain this person, ICE must prove the person is lying. This did not happen in these cases. As you read these, many questions will occur. (For instance, in the case below, why would a police officer write down that someone born in the US was born in Belize?) At some point it may be important to answer these questions--are officers harassing difficult suspects by the use of incorrect place of birth information, knowing this will put people in ICE detention? Are officers racist and trying to deport African-Americans?) The only way to get to the bottom of this is through more local police oversight, Congressional oversight, and, when necessary, civil and criminal prosecutions.

Other cases, with pseudonyms for purpose of easier discussion:

-Eva, Los Angeles resident, African-American woman born in the United States (state unknown) and arrested in February 2008, for a minor drug possession charge. The arresting officer wrote that Eva was born in Belize. Eva has never been to Belize. She was put in ICE custody and taken to the Florence Detention Center in Arizona, where she was held for two months as she saved $1 day from working in the detention center to pay for her birth certificate. (Source: Florence Immigration and Refugee Rights Program social worker)

-MarK, Washington state resident, California-born US citizens. Mark was stopped for minor criminal activity and turned over to ICE. Mark had moved from California to Washington when he was three years old. The ICE agent did not believe this statement and, without any proof, wrote that Mark had emigrated from Mexico to the U.S. when he was three. Mark had never stepped foot in Mexico until he was 20. Mark was was held in Takoma and somewhere in Alabama for a total of 9 months. Even though there were no legal grounds for his detention, he was not released until a court hearing, when his pro bono attorney presented Mark's California vaccination records from when Mark was two. The attorney believes that if his mother had not been able to produce this record, then his client would have been deported. No birth certificate was avaialable because Mark's mother was not in the country legally and, fearful of deportation, gave birth in a private home. (Source: (Source: Jorge Barón, Executive Director, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project [NIRP])

-Jason, U.S. citizenship derived from parents who naturalized before he was 18. Born in Belize. Held in detention in California (Mira Loma, I think) for two months after release from prison. (Source: private immigration attorney, Los Angeles).

-John, U.S. citizenship derived from parents who had naturalized before he was 18. Born in Ethiopia. Detained in Takoma over 6 months, NIRP only found out because a self-styled jailhouse lawyer/detainee brought this case to their attention. (Source: Barón, NIRP)

-Michael, U.S. citizenship derived from mother who naturalized before he was 18. Michael was born in Mexico. Michael was held by ICE for four years during his appeals. The FIRRP attorney advising him, but without the time to appear with him during the hearings, was stunned to learn that the judge did not accept the evidence her staff had assembled that clearly documented his US citizenship. Rather than endure more time in Eloy, after four years Michael gave up and signed the deportation order and was removed to Mexico before the FIRRP attorney could see him again.

TO BE CONTINUED!
The image above is from a 2007 protest against the Takoma Detention Center, where Mark and John, US natural-born citizens, were held for several months. See article at Indymedia, Portland here.

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