Thursday, February 18, 2010

Joe Anderson's Attorney to ICE: Read the Rules, Stop Holding Someone With Evidence of U.S. Citizenship

Last week I wrote about Joseph Anderson, someone the U.S. government is trying to deport despite evidence indicating he is a U.S. citizen.

ICE has issued the following statement:
In the immigration proceedings concerning
Joseph Anderson and issues related to his continued
detention, ICE maintains, based upon documentation
and court decisions, that Mr. Anderson is a citizen
of the Philippines and a lawfully admitted permanent
resident of the United States who has forfeited his
residency status due to [criminal convictions for
nonviolent crimes].

Significantly, in October 1977, the U.S. Embassy in
Manila rejected Mr. Anderson's claim to U.S.
citizenship because he was not his U.S. citizen
stepfather Harold Anderson's blood child and
therefore did not have a valid claim at that time.

[Mr. Anderson is not a "blood child"? What kind
of 21st century government uses the language of a
"blood child"?]

Mr. Anderson was admitted into the United States as
a lawful permanent resident in 1978 as the step-child
of a U.S. citizen.

In November 2003, Mr. Anderson was convicted of Arizona
state felony charges ... [P]ermanent residents guilty
of these crimes are subject to removal from the United
States. As a result, he came into the custody of U.S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement when he completed
his sentence in June 2007 in order to be placed in
removal proceedings.

Multiple court decisions by the Executive Office for
Immigration Review and the Board of Immigration
Appeals (BIA) have since found that Mr. Anderson is
not a citizen of the United States and that he should
be removed to the Philippines for his crimes. Mr.
Anderson has not submitted any probative evidence
that he was legitimated by his step-father, Mr. Harold
Anderson, under federal or state laws following his
admission as a lawful permanent resident in 1978.
Nevertheless, he will continue to have an
opportunity to do so in upcoming appeal proceedings,
as he has a Petition for Review pending with the
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Mr. Anderson is a felon ..., thus ICE is statutorily
mandated by the Immigration and Nationality Act to
keep him in detention during his proceedings.
However, based on 9th Circuit precedent decisions, he
was entitled to and has received a bond redetermination
hearing, at which an immigration judge ordered his
release upon the payment of a $10,000 bond. He has
failed to post that bond, and thus remains in ICE

Here is the problem with this statement: Mr. Herbert Flores-Torres. Last week I made a mistake and said that ICE held him, a U.S. citizen, without authority for three years.

In fact, ICE locked up Mr. Flores without authority from June, 2005 until December, 2009, four and a half years. (There are many other cases like this I've encountered in my research; space does not permit their discussion here.)

Mr. Flores suffered through the same legal nightmare and ICE custody as Mr. Anderson--including several negative decisions on his U.S. citizenship claim by an immigration judge (hereafter, EOIR attorney) and the Board of Immigration Appeals. But he eventually won.

To ward against this ICE has come up with a new policy: the government may issue deportation orders and require hearings in an immigration court, but ICE may not keep people in custody who provide evidence of U.S. citizenship. The memorandum says, "In all cases, any uncertainty about whether the evidence is probative of U.S. citizenship should weigh against detention."

Regardless of the ultimate determination of Mr. Anderson's citizenship, Kari Hong, Mr. Anderson's attorney, thinks it's time for ICE to start following its own rules and release her client immediately: "The policy allows the immigration proceedings to continue but with him to be out of custody. This seems a reasonable regulation. It ensures you do not have a U.S. citizen detained. ICE appears to be in violation of its own regulation."

Although finding against Mr. Anderson on the merits of his claim, the Board of Immigration Appeals found evidence on his side and wrote, "We agree there is some support for his argument" claiming U.S. citizenship.

That this position has been rejected means little as far the final disposition of Mr. Anderson's citizenship claims. Mr. Flores is a U.S. citizen and the BIA ruled against him as well. However, it's hard to understand how the government can maintain it has certainty that Mr. Anderson lacks any evidence of citizenship when the BIA says it found "some support for his argument."

Moreover, the government is in no position to assert its certainty about Mr. Anderson's evidence when they were demonstrably wrong about similar claims they made in the case of Mr. Flores, and when the EOIR has had so many of its decisions reversed by the federal courts. One federal decision went so far as to publicly ridicule the EOIR:
This tension between judicial and administrative adjudicators is not due to judicial hostility to the nation's immigration policies or to a misconception of the proper standard of judicial review of administrative decisions. It is due to the fact that the adjudication of these cases at the administrative level has fallen below the minimum standards of legal justice. Whether this is due to resource constraints or to other circumstances beyond the Board's and the Immigration Court's control, we do not know, though we note that the problem is not of recent origin. All that is clear is that it cannot be in the interest of the immigration authorities, the taxpayer, the federal judiciary, or citizens concerned with the effective enforcement of the nation's immigration laws for removal orders to be routinely nullified by the courts, and that the power of correction lies in the Department of Homeland Security, which prosecutes removal cases, and the Department of Justice, which adjudicates them in its Immigration Court and Board of Immigration Appeals. Benslimane v. Gonzales, 430 F.3d 829 (2005).
In Mr. Flores's case the district court judge's opinion on his case was a lengthy and nuanced evaluation of family law in California and El Salvador, a model of textual exegesis that bears no relation to the poorly reasoned opinions produced by the EOIR. For instance, Mr. Anderson is a citizen if Harold Anderson, Jr. is considered to have legitimated Joseph in his residence or domicile, as well as Joseph's place of birth. Under California law during this period, Harold Jr. appears to be Joseph's presumptive father, but the Board only considered paternity laws in the Philippines.

In his second Motion to Reconsider, Mr. Anderson's appeal conveyed frustration with the Board's failure to consider the law and legal analysis:
In its decision, this Board stated, ‘Insofar as the respondent was born in the Philippines, we must look to that jurisdiction’s laws to determine whether he has been legitimated.’ BIA dec. at 2. The decision offered no explanation as to why the place of birth controls for purposes of legitimation. [Note:] Several paragraphs before the discussion of legitimation, the decision states that the ‘applicable law for transmitting citizenship’ is the ‘law in effect on the child’s birth date.’ BIA 2. While this Board’s decision may be implying that the relevant law is also the law in effect at the place and time of the child’s birth, case law only supports the interpretation that the date of the child’s birth is controlling for purposes of determining the law under which citizenship, not legitimacy, will be determined. Furthermore, the idea that the applicable law of legitimacy is the law in effect at the place and time of birth is at odds with the plain language of the statute...

No wonder the federal courts have to intervene.

This is not to say the federal courts always get it right. Two recent opinions in the Ninth Circuit misread U.S. citizenship law and misstate the history of kinship rules in world history, including the United States. Martinez-Madera v. Holder, 599 F.3d 947 (2009) and U.S. v. Marguet-Pillado, 560 F.3d 1078 (2009) assume that families are based on "blood," not law.

Here's what the opinion states in Marguet-Pillado:

It is a commonplace that the traditional ways of transmitting and acquiring citizenship at birth are jus soli and jus sanguinis. In this country, the former is provided for by the Constitution, and the latter is provided for by the enactments of Congress. It would be a bit surprising to discover that over the decades Congress had selected a method that relied on neither concept, but, rather, was content to have United States citizenship acquired at birth by a person born out of wedlock, who was not born on United States soil and who, at the time, did not have a natural parent who was a United States citizen. As it is, there is no cause for surprise
The problem with this passage is that citizenship law from 1953-1986 provides for exactly this possibility, by making family ties retroactive to the time of birth. A step-father who marries one's mother becomes one's father under this law.

8 USC §1409(a) defines “child” for purposes of acquired citizenship as an
unmarried person under twenty-one years of age who is—(A) a child born in wedlock; (B) a stepchild, whether or not born out of wedlock, provided the child had not reached the age of eighteen years at the time the marriage creating the status of step child occurred; (C) a child legitimated under the law of the child’s residence or domicile, or under the law of the father’s residence or domicile, whether in or outside the United States, if such legitimation takes place before the child reaches the age of eighteen years and the child is in the legal custody of he legtimating parent or parents at the time of such legitimation; (D) a child born out of wedlock, by, through whom, or on whose behalf a status, privilege, or benefit is sought by virtue of the relationship of the child to its natural mother or to its natural father if the father has or had a bona fide parent-child relationship with the person.
(B) applies not only to the situation the appellate court ridicules, but to Harold Andersons Jr.'s relation to his son, Joseph. Only Officer Anderson was named on Joseph's birth certificate as his father, had married Joseph's mother, and had held him out as his son as long as Joseph knew.

Moreover, the truly absurd statement is that kinship ties have been based on knowledge about paternal genetics. That information was not even available until the late 20th century. This language, and laws about the authority of State Department findings, also explains why the U.S. embassy's ruling against Mr. Anderson's citizenship claim when he was two do not controvert his claim now.

Many other U.S. citizens had been given improper documents at some point indicating they were legal permanent residents. This is evidence of government error, not grounds for deportation.

Complicated legal questions cannot be evaluated by a blog. But if the government says that ICE may not incarcerate anyone who has even the possibility of probative evidence of U.S. citizenship, and Mr. Anderson has grounds for his arguments, then while this is being settled, ICE should not risk punishing Mr. Anderson for its mistakes, as it demonstrably did in the case of Mr. Flores.

Mr. Anderson's family cannot afford the $10,000 bond. The procedures for releasing people with evidence of U.S. citizenship apply to everyone, regardless of any criminal history. Mr. Anderson served his time for a nonviolent crime far less severe than the one his government is perpetrating against him: false imprisonment. It's time for his government to follow the rule of law and release him.

Thanks to the ACLU, the Nation, the Nation Institute, and Yale Law School's Media Freedom and Information Access Practicum I did go on the tour of the Varick Detention Center on Tuesday. I will be writing about this shortly for The Nation and at more length here as well.

Also, on Sunday, Henry Raines had me on his am radio show in Tampa to talk about States Without Nations, the book. If you want to hear a caller denounce me as a pot smoker (his claim, not mine), listen in...

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