Tuesday, August 10, 2010

ICE Deports Wrong Man, Attorney Fights Back


As the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) expands its database surveillance programs, civil libertarians have feared, rightly, the agency encroaching on privacy interests. However, equally worrisome is that the government might arrest and deport you by encroaching on someone else's privacy.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and local law enforcement officials have been using a DHS database (IDENT) and coming up with false positives and then including in their arrest reports information consistent with the match and excluding from the arrest report information inconsistent with a match. The cases I've seen typically involve two records for two different people: one record is for someone with legal status to remain in the country and the other record is for someone ICE has put into removal proceedings. ICE claims in these cases that one or the other names is an alias and the two records are for the same person.

That means that you could have an arrest warrant issued to you based on ICE claiming that you are "really" someone else. The secrecy of these databases and their protocols, as well as DHS attorneys' failure to produce authenticated and verifiable underlying evidence, makes it difficult to impossible for respondents who lack legal counsel to challenge these orders.

Attorneys have a hard time challenging these matches as well. Florence Project attorney Kara Hartzler's July 20, 2010 Motion to Appeal EOIR adjudicator Linda Spencer-Walters' removal order for someone who was deported on February 2, 2010 provides insight into how ICE agents are playing around with information on their reports and how EOIR adjudicators, many of whom are former ICE attorneys, are rubber-stamping the misinformation.

Ms. Hartzler's incisive and informative appeal contains important legal and factual analyses useful for challenging ICE in these cases. I am posting it here, with the personal information about the respondent and someone else redacted, because her analyses may be helpful for other attorneys confronting similar situations.

By the way, folks who are familiar with the poor quality of decisions by Ms. Spencer-Walters, an adjudicator at the Eloy Detention Center, may know that she is a former ICE attorney but may not realize that she was the ICE attorney who vigorously pursued the deportation of four star high school students in a well-publicized 2005 case following their arrest on a field trip.

An immigration judge in Phoenix, John Richardson, squashed the deportation order on the grounds that it was obtained based on unconstitutional racial profiling, according to Daniel González, a reporter for the Arizona Republic. His story describes two students quoting Border Patrol agents in Buffalo: "In Arizona they may not stick out because there are a lot of Hispanics, but in Buffalo they were eventually going to get questioned."

Ms. Spencer-Walters lost the case but as an apparent reward for her dogged efforts to deport honor students -- the hearing lasted six hours -- the Department of Justice made her a job offer and in 2008 she was sworn in as an adjudicator. Now she can just deport people herself and not bother with little things like the Constitution and evidence.

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