Wednesday, November 23, 2011
USCIS Official Rebuffs Morton Memorandum on Detaining U.S. Citizens
"Santa Fe Man One of Thousands of Legal Citizens Rounded Up by ICE," is the latest headline announcing the persistence of the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) kidnapping and false imprisonment of U.S. citizens.
In a case reported by Sandra Baltazar Martinez in the Santa Fe New Mexican on November 20, 2011, Emilio René Pincheira Dennett, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was held by Immigration and Custom Enforcement's (ICE). From the moment he was arrested by agents barging into his house, he asserted his U.S. citizenship, and provided information sufficient for ICE to have not only checked out his claims but also to release him, per the official and demonstrably ignored ICE policy on handling those who assert U.S. citizenship.
John Morton's November 19, 2009 memorandum to ICE agents states that as a "matter of law, ICE has no jurisdiction over U.S. citizens" and that "Agents and officers must fully investigate the merits of any claim to citizenship made by an individual who is subject to an NTA [Notice to Appear in an immigration court]." Information about naturalization would have been maintained in DHS databases easily accessible to ICE agents and attorneys, who appear not to have followed up on this. As well, the Morton memorandum states: "In all case, any uncertainty of whether the evidence is probative of U.S. citizenship should weigh against detention."
In a textbook case of DHS misstating its responsibilities and failing to hold its agents accountable for this egregious civil rights violation, Tim Counts of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, is reported to have told Martinez that "the burden of proof falls on the individual detained to produce documentation." This is an accurate statement of the burden of proof for an individual who is not born in the United States to prevail during deportation proceedings in an immigration court, but it is an erroneous statement of the legal burden of proof for "an individual detained."
To be clear, Counts is from USCIS and not ICE, but if he is going to state the policy of another agency, then he might want to make sure that he gets it right. Circulating a statement at odds with efforts to deter the detention of U.S. citizens reveals a lot about the mindset of DHS officials: absent specific knowledge they impute illegal authority to their agents.
The ICE response? "No system is perfect," according to Leticia Zamarripa, the ICE spokesperson quoted by Martinez.
For research on the large-scale of these imperfections, the government's euphemism for kidnappings and false imprisonment, see "U.S. Government Unlawfully Detaining and Deporting U.S. Citizens," published in the Virginia Journal of Social Policy and the Law (click on upper left "One Click Download) and cited by Martinez, along with statements from Ted Robbins' NPR story, "In the Rush to Deport: Expelling U.S. Citizens," which aired on October 24, 2011 . (Yeah, I know: "Expelling"?! Robbins' story is terrific and I'm blaming a clueless NPR editor for equating losing one's home, community, job, house, and everything else with being sent home from school.)