Thursday, April 9, 2009

News On US Citizens being Detained, Deported, or Convicted as Aliens

The following summarizes key findings from my recent research on U.S. citizens who have been detained, deported, or convicted of immigration crimes predicated on alienage. I am compiling this in the context of other narratives from government officials, immigration attorneys, criminal public defense attorneys, and US citizens for submission to a peer-reviewed journal but thought this information should be publicly available in the meantime.

The reports on the US citizens detained in the Eloy and Florence areas are based on my personal inspection of more than 2,000 individual case files maintained by the nonprofit Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project. They provide legal support for pro se representation to all detainees held in Florence or Eloy and maintain files for approximately one-third of the detainees.

Between March 23 and March 25, 2009 I went through all the case files for Florence detainees for 2008 and all the cases files that were classified as possible terminations for detainees held in Eloy from 2006-2008.

The FIRRP attorneys are responsible for much appreciated access to their files, and for putting up with a stranger occupying their conference room for three long days, but they did not direct my research in any way.

In addition to the results below, this research yielded many other disturbing findings I will describe in future postings.


--I saw files for at least 65 US citizens who were held in the Eloy Detention Center in Arizona between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2008.

--I read files for at least 15 US citizens who were held in jails or ICE-run detention centers in nearby Florence, Arizona between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2008.

--One percent of the cases in FIRRP files were for US citizens. If this rate holds for the United States, then about 10,000 US citizens have been put into removal proceedings since 2003.

--In at least five cases, DHS trial attorneys appealed the immigration judges' orders terminating proceedings on grounds of US citizenship. In each of the cases the BIA affirmed the order terminating the deportation proceedings, but the delay added months to years to the time the US citizens were held in detention.

--In an additional five cases that have been previously unreported in the media, US citizens who had produced birth certificates indicating birth in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, or California were held as unlawful immigrants in detention centers in Eloy or Florence.

--There are many other cases in which individuals with proof of being citizens by birth are receiving adverse judgments by immigration judges and BIA judges who are writing decisions that defy law and evidence.


I saw documents in a file for a 17 year-old who was born in Colorado and raised in Mexico. When he returned to the United States with his birth certificate, a border patrol guard tore it up in front of him and told him it was fraudulent. He told the kid, Michael, not his real name, that he could dispute this by being handcuffed and brought to a detention center, or he could sign a document stipulating he was a Mexican citizen and be released.

Go to jail with scary, mean guys who just tore up your birth certificate or sign a get-out-of-jail-notsofree card? The kid chose the latter.

Michael tried returning again, was caught, and this time decided to stick it out. The immigration judge relied on his statement of Mexican citizenship signed under duress and ignored the three inch thick file documenting his birth in the United States, including a birth certificate, a photo from when the kid was about 8 years old in which you can see the exact same birth certificate in his hand, and a hospital report on his newborn reflexes taken several minutes after birth.

Michael has been removed to Mexico and stripped of his citizenship rights.


Today's LA Times article states: "'ICE does not detain United States citizens,' said spokesman Richard Rocha, adding that agents thoroughly investigated people's claims of citizenship. 'ICE only processes an individual for removal when all available facts indicate that the person is an alien.'"

Since in some cases, the DHS attorneys are themselves withdrawing the notices to appear, this statement is demonstrably false.

For instance, one guy was held in Eloy for two and half months in 2007 before the trial attorney filed a motion to withdraw the removal order on grounds of the detainee's US citizenship. I have documented similar cases and I know from conversations with DHS officials that they are also aware of this.

I have additional information on US citizens in removal proceedings--I've documented over 160 cases in recent years of individuals whose claims to US citizenship have been affirmed by an immigration judge, USCIS agent, jury, or federal judge and yet who at some point were detained, deported, or convicted of immigration crimes predicated on alienage.

Also, there are the potentially viable claims that cannot be pursued even as far as Michael's, who actually had a birth certificate.

Some files had what appear to be legitimate claims but the detainees decided not to pursue them. E.g., - a sleeve note by a Florence attorney states: Dad USC, died 20 years ago” “R has a cta which has USC dad's name on it. BUT R doesnt have anything else and probably not means to get it. If he wants he can turn in generic deriv. w. [illegible] that he is an USC. But w/o more data claim will be denied.”

The attorney was advising the client on a pro se basis and knew that an indigent felon didn't have the resources to track down the necessary documents to show his father's residence and work history in the United States.

Okay, that's all the new stuff for now. More to come.


I was hoping that some of the information above would have appeared in today's LA Times story about the detention and removal of U.S. citizens. The article by Andrew Becker and Patrick McDonnell, U.S. citizens caught up in immigration sweeps mentions just one new case of a natural-born US citizen held in detention and downplays the documented evidence of many others in the public domain. I'd shared some of the information above with one of the reporters; I know from our conversations he had additional evidence of US citizens held in detention that also was not included.

Newspapers have space constraints and cannot include all available information about any particular subject;and yes, people who are interviewed and have their comments omitted will be predictably grumpy. No news there. But what seems wrong is for the article to confuse space constraints with the absence of evidence, as occurs in this statement: "No agency tracks such incidents, so statistical totals are not available."

This is gobbledygook and also incorrect. Since when does a "statistical total" from counting require an agency? What does it tell us about reporting standards that government reports are equated with evidence when it is the very same government that is illegally holding its own citizens?


Meanwhile, if you want a quick survey of published reports on US citizens in detention centers or deported, you can check out the following:

-- the McClatchy news service, "Immigration officials detaining, deporting American citizens" (January 24, 2008)

--USA Today, Citizens sue after detentions, immigration raids (6/25/08)

--The Nation "Thin ICE" (6/23/08).

This is a photo of the Gila River, mostly a dry bed unless there's a downpour, taken from its north side facing south. The buildings in the background are the Pinal County Jail, which houses detainees. After the Mexican-American War, the Gila River marked the southern boundary of the United States. The Eloy Detention Center is also south of the Gila River. I took this picture a couple of weeks ago when I was doing research in this area. (That's not a typo: this area of the country was obtained by fraud and corruption in a trade brokered in 1853 on behalf of US slave-holding interests and for the personal enrichment of a Mexican dictator.)


Fabio said...

Are you talking about the Gladstone Purchase?

jacqueline stevens said...

Close! In the U.S. it's called the Gadsden Purchase, named after the slave-owner and ambassador to Mexico James Gadsden. In Mexico the ripoff is called the Venta de la Mesilla, after the Mesilla Valley. Santa Anna conducted the negotiations in secret and even confiscated Spanish newspapers reporting on the treaty debate in the U.S. Senate and brought in from NY so he could push the deal through. I think this deal epitomizes the inanity of these borders, and the chutzpah of holding people as "illegal" in a territory that is arguably their own.

Anonymous said...

Did the aliens give you permission to review their files? The Florence Project can't give you permission on the alien's behalf.

Moreover, your title is a bit sensationalist. If you can prove you're a bona fide US citizen, with proof that shows you're in compliance with citizenship law, then ICE has to immediately release you. If not, you've got a good lawsuit against the US government. But if the evidence shows that you were born in Mexico, but you can't prove that you or your parents met the requirements of citizenship law, then you're SOL and the US government hasn't done anything wrong. You can't simply claim to be US citizen without some proof.

jacqueline stevens said...

Nothing personal, Anonymous, but you sound like one of the DHS attorneys or ICE agents whose disregard of law and common sense is behind this mess.

I posted your comment so readers can have a glimpse into the ugly ignorance that is responsible for U.S. citizens being detained, deported, and convicted as criminals for immigration violations. The headline isn't sensationalist, just stating the facts. If you want a different headline, stop breaking the law.

1) The Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project was fully compliant with HHS Research Guidelines: "research activities in which the only involvement of human subjects will be in one or more of the following categories are exempt from this policy [requiring subject consent]:... Research involving the collection or study of existing data, documents, records, pathological specimens, or diagnostic specimens, if these sources are publicly available or if the information is recorded by the investigator in such a manner that subjects cannot be identified, directly or through identifiers linked to the subjects."

2) The law on ICE jurisdiction over U.S. citizens is clear: ICE has no jurisdiction over U.S. citizens. Moreover, the cases I documented included not only those of people born abroad, but people born in the U.S. For these people, the burden of proof is on ICE to show they're not U.S. citizens before arresting them.

3) It's true that an ICE agent might have overheard Senator McCain mention he was born outside the U.S. and ask for proof of his acquired U.S. citizenship, but as far as I know this has never happened. Racial profiling is illegal, and that's what's being done.

4) If ICE took Senator McCain into custody and he didn't have money for phone calls and no documents with him, then they would have helped him out and allowed him to speak with his attorney or call his family. If it was going to take some time to track down the documents, then they would release him and give him a court date. Mexican-Americans ICE arrests are not given lawyers, the right to call their family, or the right to call the government agencies that have their records. Nor does ICE look up these records themselves.

4) "SOL" if you're a poor U.S. citizen and someone like this writer has you in his custody? That's why I'm calling some of these events kidnappings. The arrogance of a government uniform or job does not substitute for the rule of law. The truth is that if you're born in the U.S., then ICE has the burden of proving alienage and you do not require proof of U.S. citizenship.

Moreover, border patrol and other ICE agents are tearing up birth certificates of Mexican-American teenagers too young for drivers' licenses.

ICE and the Border Patrol are also detaining Mexican-Americans with passports, so national identity cards are not the answer.

The answer is for people like the writer to realize that their accident of birth does not entitle them to bully people for no reason other than the belief that they were born in another country; otherwise the writer will be abusing not only foreigners, but his or her fellow citizens as well.

Anonymous said...

My husband was detained by ICE, I went there to find out why they had my husband. When i asked why they were detaining him I was told"ma'am that is between the US Government and your husband. I said i am his wife i have a right to know. They said no ma'am you don't. If he wants to tell you he can. I aske dto speak to my husband and I was told no. Then i said I AM AN AMERICAN CITIZEN and i have rights. The ICE officier told me "NO Ma'am not here you don't" I was in a federal building talking to a federal agent being told I had NO RIGHTS. Your readers should be very worried about the conduct of ICE. Our Constitutional rights and being denied and abused. Wake up AMERICA. Its only a matter of time.

Rohan Douglas said...

From Nov 2005 thru Nov 2008, I endured the full wrath of ICE and their Storm Troopers. Despite documentation of my U S citizenship, ICE still proceeded to process me for deportation. However, I finally won and I WILL BE SEEING THEM IN COURT. FEDERAL COURT THAT IS, FOR PAYBACK!!!

Hasan and Rose said...

The ICE officer took my Green Card and cut it to pieces right in front of me.. telling me that "This does not mean S**T. You are mine now and I am GOD. I am the LAW as far as you are concerned."
He also took my Drivers licence and SS Card, snickering at them.

That was before the real torture even began!!! I was held in Fayetteville, Arkansas. I was moved from one detention center to another until I requested to be sent to Pakistan, where I had not been in over two decades.. I do not know the culture or the people.

Be scared.. very very scared. My wife could not find me until I contacted her from Pakistan over 3 months later.

When my wife joined me in Pakistan, she went to the US Embassy to get help and was told, "DIVORCE your husband and then if you can get 3 U.S. Citizens to vouche for you we will send you and the kids back to the US." That was all the "HELP" they could give.

What Professor Stevens is writting about should be required reading for ALL AMERICANS.

Hasan and Rose

Anonymous said...

my wife was just taken into custody yesterday i am heartbroken and dont no what to do i am 19 and we were getting her papers fixed already i have kept calling for information on her and they keep telling me they can tell me noting about her if this was a killer or a drug dealer or sumthing like that i could understand them getting deported and wouldnt even care but she has been here since she was 9 monthz old she is 19 she went to school all her life here and she is a very good person no trouble with the law just traffic tickets and she always pays on time its these stupid drug dealers and killers coming in illegally and ruinin it for everyone else its just said her going threw this i love you baby

Anonymous said...

my wife was just taken into custody yesterday i am heartbroken and dont no what to do i am 19 and we were getting her papers fixed already i have kept calling for information on her and they keep telling me they can tell me noting about her if this was a killer or a drug dealer or sumthing like that i could understand them getting deported and wouldnt even care but she has been here since she was 9 monthz old she is 19 she went to school all her life here and she is a very good person no trouble with the law just traffic tickets and she always pays on time its these stupid drug dealers and killers coming in illegally and ruinin it for everyone else its just said her going threw this i love you baby

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