Friday, August 8, 2008

California Prisons and Jails Deny Due Process to Citizens and Legal Residents

As discussed in yesterday's post (August 7), the 1994 Crime Bill and the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act incentivized states to reclassify their inmate populations as aliens. The 1994 program designed for early parole on condition of deportation for nonviolent aliens turned into program of the federal government paying states to hold aliens for their normal sentences, or even longer. And this program provides no protections for citizens and legal residents who are misclassified. They too were put in maximum security prisons; held in detention centers; and in some cases, deported.

Here is some more information on how this was established in California.

The Texas legislative analyst's 1994 report Identify All Incarcerated Illegal Aliens and Deport Eligible Nonviolent Criminal Aliens was written to inform the Texas legislature on how other states had been handling their alien inmate population, and to asses the potential fiscal impact of signing up for the alien identification and deportation program with the federal government.

Here's what it says about California:
California's Department of Corrections reports that its process of identification goes far beyond self-reporting. An official in its Classification and Institution Division stated that caseworkers look at court records, "rap sheets," probation officer reports and other forms of identification, including Social Security cards and birth certificates. If there is any doubt about citizenship, the inmate is referred to INS for further review. Basically, California's policy is
that, unless inmates can prove they are U.S. citizens, they are referred to INS, which will screen and identify those it deems to be deportable.

This is a denial of due process for everyone, and clearly illegal in the case of those inmates who claim citizenship based on birth in the United States.

That this policy has continued through today in California is suggested in LA Sheriff Department's Officer Al Woods in his June 14, 2007 affidavit included in the government's responses to the habeas petition filed by the Southern California ACLU on behalf of Peter Guzman in June, 2007. In that document, Woods acknowledges that Guzman had told the police who arrested him and the agents who admitted him to the jail that he was born in California.

This is a remarkable statement, in which Woods is admitting that the LASD routinely breaks the law. Regardless of Woods' unsubstantiated assertion that “illegal aliens often times falsely represent their place of birth” the law requires that the assertion of birth in the United States puts the burden of proof on the government to show otherwise. The admission that Guzman “stated he was born in California” absent any other proof otherwise means that there were no reasonable grounds for suspecting Guzman was lying, and therefore no grounds for coercing him into signing a “voluntary” deportation order other than the illegal ones of racial profiling, incentivized by the compensation to local jails for housing criminal aliens.

Moreover, the jails and prisons who profile aliens and continue to house them are violating Congress's admittedly bad intentions. The 1996 IIRPA legislation, in explaining the desire to revise bilateral treaties to deport criminal aliens, states: “It is the sense of the Congress that the focus of negotiations for such agreements should be (A) to expedite the transfer of aliens unlawfully in the United States who are (or who are about to be) incarcerated in United States prisons.” The measure specifically calls for the treaties to end the requirement of prisoner consent to these transfers.

However, as was the case for David in Georgia, Guzman was not transferred to a Mexican prison but served the same amount of time in the LA County Jail as other prisoners would serve.

The only difference between the sentence of Guzman and other inmates with US citizenship in the LA County Jail is that Guzman (and Robert, and other US citizens wrongfully deported to Mexico whom I profiled in “Thin ICE”) had alien classifications leading to substantial federal dollars to the local and state prison systems, as discussed in yesterday's post.

(Note: I was planning to post the habeas petition on behalf of a Maryland inmate who is a US citizen but was misclassified as an alien without due process by the Maryland prison and then Department of Homeland Security. However, since sending me the information, the attorney has expressed a desire to consult his incarcerated client for permission to publicize his situation; I am respecting the attorney's request not to post the habeas petition until that has been obtained or the hearing has been held, whichever comes first.)

Photo by Don Bartletti, LA Times.

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