Thursday, July 15, 2010

U.S. Citizens Detained and Deported: 2010 Fact Sheet



This fact sheet is a response to recent requests for original data.

Findings based on this research have been published in The Nation magazine, States Without Nations: Citizenship for Mortals (Columbia University Press, 2009), and on this blog (see tag ICE Deporting US Citizens).

.In January, 2011 the Virginia Journal of Social Policy and the Law will be publishing “U.S. Government Detaining and Deporting U.S. Citizens as Aliens,” a 78-page typescript.

"It is better that many Chinese immigrants should be improperly admitted than that one natural born citizen of the United States should be permanently excluded from his country."

--U.S. Supreme Court Judge John Clark, majority decision in Fat v. White 253 U.S. 454, 464 (1920).

Key Findings

#1 In 2010 The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Bureau of Immigration of Customs Enforcement(ICE) continues to unlawfully detain and deport U.S. citizens and to issue false and misleading statements about these activities.

#2 The agency running the immigration courts, the Department of Justice's (DOJ) Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR), is a paranoid and bureaucratic backwater beset by cronyism, malfeasance, and close ties to the DHS, rendering many immigration courts, especially those hearing detained respondents, incapable of providing checks on ICE lawbreaking, including ICE's detention and deportation of U.S. citizens.



From 2006 to 2008 one percent of people in ICE detention centers in Southern Arizona who consulted with attorneys funded by the Department of Justice Legal Orientation Program had their cases terminated by immigration judges because they were U.S. citizens (82 out of 8,027).

(For chart indicating length of time U.S. citizens held in Arizona jails please go here.)

Only a handful of detainees who were U.S. citizens in ICE detention had been convicted of violent crimes; the majority were reported to ICE while serving sentences for drug convictions.

This population of Southern Arizona detainees for the most part originates in California prisons and jails, and accounts for approximately 10 per cent of all detainees nationwide; it appears to be broadly representative of people held in other detention centers. About 30% of the people detained who were not U.S. citizens nonetheless had two or more close relatives who were U.S. citizens.

A 2009 report by the City Bar Justice Center's NYC Know Your Rights Project noted that eight per cent of people who were held in the Varick Detention when they conducted a survey had apparently valid claims to U.S. citizenship.

Last year ICE held over 400,000 individuals, including approximately 4,000 U.S. citizens. (See chart for 2003 to 2009.)

ICE public affairs and other officers are claiming that a November 19, 2009 memorandum issued by ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton has addressed successfully the problem of ICE detaining U.S. citizens.

Far from being evidence of ICE cleaning up its act, such statements to members of Congress and the press are further evidence of government malfeasance and deceptions. As recently as June, 2010, Mr. Luis Delgado, born in Houston, was threatened with prison and turned back to Reynosa, Mexico at the same border crossing where Mr. Mark Lyttle was twice turned away 18 months earlier.

In a June, 2010 response to my request under the FOIA, an ICE FOIA officer told me he had received a CD with over 4,000 pages of email traffic to its email "drop box" between November 19, 2009 and March 29, 2010. He reviewed and mailed a hard copy of the most recent 100 pages at the time (March 17 - 29, 2010). The reports redact the legal response advised by ICE Headquarters.

Two inferences are obvious from the documents I received: 1) ICE agents are demonstrably violating the 24 hour requirement by days and even weeks; 2)ICE continues to lock up people with probative evidence of U.S. citizenship.

For an ICE memorandum pertaining to someone claiming US citizenship and held in March, 2010 in violation of ICE procedures and US law, please see PAGE ONE and PAGE TWO.

Also, ICE has not insured its agents know about the new procedures. Therefore the inquiries of the drop box are understating the actual number of cases of detainees who have probative evidence of U.S. citizenship.

In January, 2010 I called a Florence, Arizona deportation officer to find out if Joseph Anderson's original birth certificate (with his USC father's name on it and a recording noting marriage to Joseph's mother as well as noting Joseph's birth as "legitimate") were "probative evidence" of his US citizenship. The deportation officer had no idea what I was talking about and stated he had not heard of this memorandum.

He gave me his email address and I forwarded the ICE memorandum I'd obtain under the FOIA. (After I posted it on my website, ICE posted the Morton memorandum on its website.)

(Mr. Anderson's been locked up in ICE custody at the Pinal County Jail for over two years.) Herbert Flores-Torres, a U.S. citizen, had to endure detention for over four years before ICE complied with the order of a federal judge to recognize his U.S. citizenship and release him. This occurred in December, 2009.

Mr. Anderson told me that when ICE first picked him up, the agent in the Phoenix office told him that the agent didn't know the meaning of "legitimate" in immigration law and was therefore going to detain him.

In the 30 cases I have documented in which the U.S. government actually deported U.S. citizens (this does not include the events associated with the recent deportation reported in the Houston Chronicle), the most common factors were U.S. citizens falsely indicating alienage to escape detention, ICE deportation officer threats, and CBP threats and destroying valid legal identification. This has meant years of exile and statelessness (see, e.g., Johann Francis).

-Among the cases I reviewed since 2003 were 19 U.S. citizens who were deported and served prison sentences after being convicted of Personation of a U.S. Citizen (18 U.S.C. 911) or Illegal Reentry (8 U.S.C. 1362), crimes predicated on alienage.

The similarity of the underlying fact patterns in these cases, and their consistency with practices that pervade ICE offices, indicate that the phenonomenon of deporting U.S. citizens is underreported, especially because the government can make it so difficult to falsify the incorrect assignment of alienage.

For instance, on his return from Guatemala after obtaining a U.S. passport through the U.S. Embasssy in Guatemala City, CBP and ICE officials arrested Mr. Lyttle at the Atlanta airport and completed Expedited Removal forms as they, in collaboration with ICE trial attorneys, attempted to deport Mr. Lyttle to Mexico for a fourth time (he was deported twice after he tried re-entering from Mexico).

(For previous reporting on the pattern of CBP tearing up or disregarding U.S. government documents presented by U.S. citizens of apparent Mexican descent, please go here.)

- Nationwide data indicating ICE is holding U.S. citizens include: independent reports from two immigration judges; a 2010 Master Calendar hearing of 105 individuals I observed, which included one U.S. citizen; a survey of pro bono immigration firms listed on a DOJ website for Southern California--in response to inquiries of 15 firms in 2008, 7 replied they had represented one to four U.S. citizens in the last three years.

-Representativeness of Southern Arizona data: The Arizona data may understate the denominator because people who are truly hopeless about their legal status may not meet with the LOP attorneys; but the Arizona data may also understate the total number of U.S. citizens in ICE custody because U.S. citizens are more likely to obtain their own private attorneys and thus would be less likely to meet with LOP attorneys and initiate a file on their cases.


Immigration courts are run by an agency, the EOIR, whose practices and policies, including unwritten ones restricting access to the courts, are rooted in cronyism and paranoia. EOIR staff nationwide vary in their efforts to follow immigration hearing laws and regulations. Respondents are at the mercy of this decentralized system. The legal counsel at the EOIR headquarters in Falls Church, Virginia have violated FOIA laws, rebuffed inquiries from independent researchers and journalists, and ignored clear evidence of misconduct by EOIR attorneys running the immigration hearings.

William Cassidy and Dan Pelletier, who run hearings for those detained at the Stewart Detention Center, have, according to TRAC at Syracuse University, the highest rate of deportations nationwide and are regularly violating the laws, regulations, and rules for immigration hearings. This incentivizes U.S. citizens, legal residents, and immigrants to give up on legal claims to remain in the United States.


No Check to Ensure Respondents Receive Copy of Government Charging Documents.

If ICE actually allows someone to appeal a removal order by going to an immigration court, a federal regulation requires that the government's basis for seeking removal is shared with the respondent. The first thing that the vast majority of immigration judges do at a Master Calendar hearing is ask the respondents at the hearings if they received this. Judges are also supposed to review the charging document and make sure the respondent has this.

Mr. Cassidy and Mr. Pelletier demonstrably do not do this. Instead, at hearings I have attended and in recordings to which I have listened, the judges TELL the respondents that they were served a "Notice to Appear," a phrase that is itself utterly meaningless. Indeed, one individual, who had been alerted by his attorney about the legal problem of not receiving a Notice to Appear, tried to tell the judge that he had not received this. In this case and others when respondents made inquiries of Mr. Pelletier he ignored their questions and, over the television monitor, barked the next name.

At one hearing that was supposedly a "mass removal" -- everyone has supposedly agreed in advance to be deported and just raises their hands in front of a camera (of course many just sit still with arms folded and show no indication of agreeing with anything Mr. Pelletier is saying on the television screen) -- immediately after Mr. Pelletier adjourned the hearing, several longterm U.S. residents asked the CCA guard when they were going to talk to the judge. The guard ignored the question and was trying to escort them out of the room to lunch. The detainees explained their plight to me and I alerted the ICE trial attorney who requested the judge resume the hearings. It was too late for one detainee who was already outside the court room. I believe that if I had not been present none of them would have spoken with the judge.

Inadequate and Misleading Bond Information.

A key reason people agree to deportation is because they want to escape detention centers. Many are eligible for bond but do not realize this because their deportation officers lie to them and they do not know how to request bond hearings of the EOIR.

Even if they do request a bond hearing, no regulation guarantees this will occur in a timely fashion. Two attorneys who represent clients in the Stewart Detention Center told me of bond hearings being frequently canceled.

At the Eloy Detention Center in southern Arizona, an EOIR attorney presiding over hearings, Mr. Richard Phelps (appointed during the Monica Goodling era), allows those who are resourceful enough to pursue a bond hearing, to hear his TAPE RECORDED INSTRUCTIONS. Following the recording, which is largely incomprehensible to anyone without immigration law training (and concludes with his chit-chat with someone helping him with the recording), the detainees ask questions of the CCA guard prior to Mr. Phelps returning to the court room where he impatiently brushes off the respondents' inquiries.

I encountered one individual who was awaiting a hearing on his green card application following the marriage to his U.S. citizen wife; he had overstayed a tourist visa and had no criminal history. It took three months before he was able to navigate his release on the minimum $1500 bond, an indication of unnecessary detention that cost not only his freedom but also the U.S. taxpayers approximately $9,000.

These experiences encourage U.S. citizens, legal residents, and immigrants to agree to deportation rather than endure the harsh and arbitrary conditions of detention and U.S. immigration courts.

Secret Evidence.
On December 8, 2008, William Cassidy encountered in Mr. Lyttle's "alien file" the ICE arrest report (I-213) showing his claim to be born in North Carolina. As is the case for other EOIR files I have examined, it lacks a "certificate of service" indicating that ICE shared it with Mr. Lyttle, a violation of 8 C.F.R. § 1003.32. During the hearing, Mr. Lyttle asked Mr. Cassidy for a copy of the paper he was reading. Normally a judge will order the ICE attorney to make a copy, but neither the ICE attorney nor the judge did this. Following the judge ignoring his entreaties, Mr. Lyttle filed a grievance requesting a copy of the I-213 but never received it.

I recently obtained an EOIR file for another respondent who appeared in the Stewart Detention Center immigration courts in 2010. It also contains what appears to be deliberately falsified information on an I-213 report that was never shared with the respondent. Mr. Pelletier, the EOIR attorney who presided over the hearing, did not require that the ICE attorney share a copy with the respondent.

Based on my own observations and conversations with practitioners in the area I believe that every EOIR file for those who are in ICE custody and have their hearings at Stewart or Atlata contains I-213s that have not been shared with respondents.

Unlawfully Closed Hearings.
A DOJ regulation states that, specific exceptions notwithstanding, "All hearings, other than exclusion hearings, shall be open to the public..." The EOIR regularly violates this rule by holding hearings in several detention centers where security guards block access. The EOIR also allows immigration judges to close hearings in non-detained buildings without legal reason or penalty. (You can read about this in The Nation and more recent postings about the EOIR on my blog.)

Mr. Cassidy and Cynthia Long, the court administrator in Atlanta, Georgia, have incorrectly told court watchers that a docket listed asylum hearings and therefore they could not attend when the truth was that the docket a) did not include asylum hearings; and b) asylum hearings are only closed at the request of the respondent. This provision is to ensure foreign agents do not retaliate against family members in a respondent's home country. It is a cruel abuse to lie and use the regulation for the purpose of obstructing access to hearings by religious, pro-immigrant observers who want to keep an eye on Mr. Cassidy, a former ICE prosecutor who has one of the highest rates of asylum denial in the country.

The Department of Justice Executive Office of Immigration Review is charged with managing immigration hearings, but its staff in Washington, D.C. also regularly violate federal laws, regulations and rules designed to thwart misconduct. I will be describing these in more detail in a forthcoming article.

The criminal and regulatory violations perpetrated by the DHS and EOIR vastly overshadow the small infractions of immigration law for which the deportation agencies and their increasingly costly budgets were established.

The government has reporting systems in place that would allow it to systematically track the rate at which deportation orders are terminated because of U.S. citizenship, but ignore Congressional inquiries and fail to collect the requested data. (This could be done easily through by EOIR, if it reported findings of nationality in its Statistical Yearbooks as reported by immigration judges and not ICE attorneys. At present the EOIR's Statistical Yearbook inaccurately lists respondents who are U.S. citizens as having the nationalities ICE ascribes to them and is another indication of the EOIR's poor record-keeping and lack of independence.)

A further problem is that the agency at the DOJ that is supposed to oversee the EOIR, the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), is infected by a similar culture. Like the EOIR, OPR is being run by an Acting Director, Mary Patrice Brown, who is a career civil servant. Brown is on leave from her position as a U.S. attorney.

According to the Washington Post's, Brown has close ties to Attorney General Eric Holder and is rumored to be in line for a position as a federal judge. Brown's appointment seems designed to prevent the OPR from performing as an independent watch dog within DOJ. The OPR is clearly violating the FOIA statute -- in violation of an April 2010 remand from the DOJ Office of Information Policy OPR will not release reports of immigration judge misconduct -- and is so secretive that it refuses to release its 2009 Annual Report.


The only way to protect the rights of U.S. citizens and legal residents is to provide an assigned attorney at government expense to anyone arrested by ICE and either held in detention or issued an Expedited Removal Order or an Administrative Removal Order who cannot afford an attorney. Absent this, it is impossible to check the abuses of discretion as well as law-breaking by ICE and border patrol agents.

Expensive? Yes, just as assigned attorneys for indigent people accused of crimes is also costly. This is the cost of doing the nasty business of implementing deportation laws.

If the U.S. public truly wanted to save money, increase jobs, and give a shot to the housing market to boot, it could abandon this parochial cause, as will surely occur eventually. This might seem far-fetched, but not as far-fetched as requiring government documents to travel from the villages to London, or to move within the colonies, as also was deemed imperative for order, the unregulated movement of poor people regarded as a clear threat to stability. Such a policy, once relinquished, now seems a provincial and ridiculous restraint on freedom and justice, not to mention commerce, as will the restriction on movement among countries appear to populations in a few hundred years.

Postscript: In May, 2010 a settlement agreement was reached in which the U.S. government agreed to pay $350,000 to a trust fund for Peter Guzman and his mother because Mr. Guzman was born in Los Angeles and in 2007 the U.S. government deported him. (The agreement has not been finalized by the judge but appears to be on track for this to occur shortly.)

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