Monday, October 26, 2009

Newly Released ICE Memorandum Admits US Citizens in ICE Custody

On November 6, 2008 James Hayes, Jr., Director of Detention and Removal Operations (DRO) for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), signed a memorandum “Superseding Guidance on Reporting and Investigating Claims to United States Citizenship.” (Among the many Obama holdovers of policy and personnel from the Bush administration are the folks running ICE, including Hayes, presently "Acting" in this same position.)

The memorandum spells out the procedures DRO agents are supposed to follow when they are holding U.S. citizens, a situation the memorandum acknowledges is especially likely to occur when DRO officers are “exercising authority under section 287 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C.S. §1357,” a provision authorizing local law enforcement agencies to detain aliens, not U.S. citizens. Section 287 has been associated with numerous egregious law-breaking acts by local police officers and sheriff's officers, as well as by ICE agents, including the deportation of US citizens through classifications initiated in state prisons and county jails.

I recently received the document in partial response to a FOIA request for ICE documents pertaining to Mark Lyttle, a U.S. citizen who was born in North Carolina. Last fall ICE agents invented a name for him and signed documents indicating he was born in Mexico, even though their own reports from various databases clearly stated that Mark was a U.S. citizen and born in the United States. (For more on Mark's case, read here.)

The two-page memorandum reveals the following:

+ While ICE public affairs officers were telling reporters ICE was "never" detaining U.S. citizens, ICE Operations officials were telling its detention and removal officers, here's what you should do to stop detaining U.S. citizens.

+ ICE officers are supposed to be investigating whether people who may not know they are U.S. citizens are indeed U.S. citizens. In the cases I have studied, agents do not do this, and they ignore hard evidence of US citizenship that arises in this research. (The file ICE had for Mark included printouts from federal and state law enforcement databases indicating in numerous places that he was a US citizen and that he was born in the United States.)

+ ICE is violating its policies on classifying documents. This “law enforcement sensitive” classification may be used only when the release of the document “could cause harm to a person's privacy or welfare, adversely impact economic or industrial institutions, or compromise programs or operations essential to the safeguarding of our national interests.” (See Department of Homeland Security Management Directive System's classification “For Official Use Only.”.)

None of the above apply to a memorandum protecting the civil rights of U.S. citizens.

This rule states further: "Information shall not be designated FOUO [this includes "law enforcement sensitive"] in order to conceal government negligence, ineptitude, illegalities, or other disreputable circumstances embarrassing to a government agency.”

Prohibiting public disclosure of rules that protect the rights of U.S. citizens has no legitimate law enforcement purpose. Its only function is to allow ICE to deny it is deporting US citizens and to deny those in ICE custody knowledge of their due process rights.

Should ICE be commended for issuing a memorandum in which it is attempting to encourage more care on the part of its agents? This is tempting, if one lives in the land of Sheriff Joe Arpaio. For those of us who still remember the U.S. Constitution, this document should be a call to action.

The only honorable and legally valid memorandum from an agency aware that when it tries to implement a law designed to deport criminal aliens it demonstrably risks deporting U.S. citizens, i.e., kidnapping, is one to Congress urging the repeal of 287: "We cannot enforce this law without violating the due process rights of U.S. citizens. Therefore, we are requesting that Congress repeal 287 g and provide full due process protections to everyone in removal proceedings."

Of course Congress can also do this itself, or it can wait and allow US citizens to be rendered stateless while wasting taxpayer money on the lawsuits across the country as these situations are remedied.

(For more on the illicit actions from 287g operations, see "The Policies and Politics of Local Immigration Enforcement Laws," issued by University of North Carolina and the North Carolina ACLU in February 2009 and "Forcing Our Blues Into Gray Areas: Local Police and Federal Immigration Enforcement," a report by Appleseed, revised January, 2008.)


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