Thursday, September 23, 2010

CNN Covers Deportation of Luis Alberto Delgado, US Citizen

Those of you who read this blog will be familiar with the fact-pattern of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Border Patrol's deportation of Luis Alberto Delgado, a U.S. citizen. On Sunday, CNN's Don Lemon interviewed Mr. Delgado, his attorney Isais Torres, and myself about this event.

In re-reading the coverage in preparation I realized that Mr. Delgado was not the only U.S. citizen whose civil rights were violated, something I didn't mention on CNN but that bears notice. In addition, his brother, Eduardo Luis Pompa, who was driving, also was unlawfully arrested on the basis of racial profiling. The officer admitted that he used the pretext of driving without a license to arrest Mr. Delgado's brother who was then released after his U.S. citizenship was confirmed.

If a U.S. citizen is born in the United States, then the burden of proof is on the government to show otherwise, and the government requires reasonable grounds for suspicion before arresting someone as a non-citizen. Mr. Pompa, according to the Houston Chronicle's Susan Carroll, "released from jail after posting bail after jailers were told by federal officials that he is a U.S. citizen." (To read the story, written before Mr. Delgado was allowed back, go here.)

Of course most U.S. citizens caught driving without a license receive a ticket and their car is impounded, but here Capt. Joe R. Martinez, who pulled the car over because Mr. Delgado was not wearing a seat belt, appears to have been using a traffic offense as an excuse to hold people, just in case they might be deportable. This is precisely the sort of civil rights violation that the Department of Justice (DOJ) alleged in its brief against the State of Arizona and its efforts to use law enforcement to verify legal status.

The DOJ doesn't need to be worried about what may happen down the line but might want to consider filing federal civil rights suits against the localities where this is happening right now.

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