Wednesday, December 14, 2011

New York Times Hides Recent Deportation of US Citizens

My research on the unlawful detention of U.S. citizens was cited in Julia Preston's article today in the New York Times, "Immigration Crackdown Also Snares Americans." Unfortunately, Ms. Preston, whose focus was on situations in which US citizens were briefly detained, added, or her editor did, the following inaccurate sentence:
"In no recent cases was an American placed in deportation." In addition, Ms. Preston misquoted me. Here is the email I sent to her this morning requesting that the Times correct the inaccurate statement by removing it.


Nice story. You're about to read a long email with evidence to underscore a request for a correction but I want you to know that although I have a problem with an assertion you make, I really appreciate the work you put into documenting the particular cases and highlighting this problem.

I do have a major concern about the line before the last paragraph: "In no recent cases was an American placed in deportation." I have evidence to the contrary. I'm wondering if you could make a correction that removes this sentence entirely or qualifies it by attributing this assertion to ICE, if ICE indeed will make it.

One problem is that the sentence is grammatically incorrect. Someone is either a) "deported"; or b) "in deportation proceedings." The sentence is open to both interpretations. If the former, it is demonstrably inaccurate, i.e., Esteban Tiznado's case (ICE reinstated the old removal order and deported him in late November.) If the latter it is still a problem, depending on the timeframe for "recent" and the fact that ICE should be holding new proceedings if people have probative evidence of US citizenship, not simply rubber-stamping old paperwork. In other words, if ICE is not placing American citizens in deportation proceedings but simply dumping them in Mexico as they did in executing Esteban's Reinstatement of Removal, this is hardly evidence of their correct handling of US citizens.

Moreover, U.S. Americans have been in deportation proceedings recently. Esteban Tiznado has relatives in deportation proceedings now in Arizona.

Also, George Ibarra was locked up in Eloy until last May even though his deportation order was terminated last February by an immigration judge because of the evidence of Ibarra's US citizenship: ICE appealed; BIA remanded and the case is still open.
Ibarra, in violation of the Morton policy, was locked up in Eloy pending the appeal, until I wrote about the case and someone from MSNBC arranged an interview w. Ibarra in the detention center.

Ibarra was released without explanation the day the interview was scheduled. (Ted Robbins did a story on this for "All Things Considered" that aired in October or November.)

As I shared with you a couple weeks ago, ICE recently has deported a U.S. citizen, Esteban Tiznado.

Esteban Tiznado was deported November 28 and is definitely a US citizen, and he's stuck in Mexico contemplating suicide because he keeps being deported. I have other cases from this year as well that I've documented -- these are cases in which DHS eventually recognized the US citizenship of the people they'd deported earlier. Actually, ICE deported Esteban's cousin Humberto in 2011 AFTER a US Asst. Attorney wrote ICE and asked them not to deport him because he appeared to be a US citizen.

'm wondering if perhaps you asked the govt. about Esteban and were then deterred by writing about this because of their misrepresentations? The Citizenship and Immigrations (CIS) officer who was representing the govt.'s case during Tiznado's trial was demonstrably misrepresenting the evidence, as I documented on Monday: (A jury did not believe the CIS agent and found Esteban Not Guilty of Illegal Reentry because he is a US citizen.)

There are other problems w. the CIS claims about Esteban's file I won't get into right now. They raise troubling questions about the whole process of how applications for Certificates of US Citizenship on behalf of people born in Mexico are being handled.

Also, I spoke yesterday w. the priest at the mission in southern Arizona that has the Tiznado family baptismal records. CIS questioned the authenticity of the certificate for Esteban's father's baptism, used for procuring a legitimate Arizona delayed birth certificate (no one in that area was given a birth certificate in 1922) but I spoke to the priest at the mission today, following up on my inquiry from last week: they have the contemporaneous 1924 entry of Jesus Tiznado's baptism on their books!
Moreover, ICE on Friday called the Florence Project and said that if someone could send them records of Jesus's siblings' US citizenship, they would reevaluate Esteban's case. I have these records for Jesus's older brother Miguel, born in 1916, from Humberto's CIS case. ICE has had these records since Saturday, but still no word on their allowing Esteban back in.

In the event, I understand that you were not doing a story on US citizens being deported but I don't understand why you would then claim that this is not happening, and not qualify it by attributing this claim to ICE.

Finally, the last statement is not what I said: canaries have less of an ability to handle toxic fumes than miners. But US citizens under our laws have more rights to handle the hardships of deportation hearings than do immigrants, and thus, as I said, it's like sending a 900 pound gorilla into the mine. If U.S. citizens are not making it, then that tells us a lot. (I was thinking later that this was a wordy and perhaps clumsy statement and that I should work on my soundbites.) Also, I did not refer to the noncitizens as people here "potentially unlawfully"--I don't use that phrase and for these purposes it isn't useful. The legal distinction as far as rights are concerned is between citizens and noncitizens, and I think, but am not positive I referred to the latter, inelegantly, as "everyone else."

It's okay if you leave the quote as is but in the interests of accuracy I am requesting that you request the deletion of this sentence: "In no recent cases was an American placed in deportation." Again, I am sorry for this inconvenience but hope you can follow up on it as soon as possible.

Best wishes, Jackie

As of 10:00 CST I have not heard back from either Julia Preston or the National desk editor with whom I also shared this email.

11:15 a.m. I spoke with Ms. Preston and she explained that the sentence initially said that "In none of these cases" of the U.S. citizen on whom she was reporting were U.S. citizens deported, but that during editing those words were removed.

Ms. Preston said that the context of the article made it obvious that the sentence referred only to the U.S. citizens on whom she was reporting but then, when I pointed out that the statement appeared immediately above a quotation from me, and that my research was on national trends, agreed that the placement was "unfortunate" and one could interpret it to be a more sweeping statement. She said that because the statement was accurate "in the context of the article" the Times would not be issuing a correction.

UPDATE January 5, 2012: Just to be clear, the response from the Times is absurd; the context indicates no restriction to the cases on which Ms. Preston is reporting and to say otherwise is to ignore the plain meaning of the words and sentence. Moreover, the assertion could be at best a wild guess because often no one knows about the deportation of US citizens until well past the period of their deportation, e.g., the widely publicized case of Jakadrian Turner, deported in April, 2011. Moreover, I spoke this morning to Manuel Valenzuelas, a US citizen who, along with his brother, Valencia, have been fighting their order of removal for several years. I will post more on their case after I receive the legal documents but the short version is that their mother was born in the United States and thus they automatically acquired citizenship by operation of law at birth. Nonetheless, racial profiling at the El Paso border when they entered the US as children meant they were issued green cards and when ICE matched them up with some minor convictions they were put into removal proceedings; these are ongoing even though they have shared with Homeland Security agents and an immigration judge copies of their birth certificates, their mother's birth certificate, and their mother's death certificate. At no point has anyone accused them of fraud but DHS is trying to make them jump through the hoop of acquiring an N600. Manuel correctly asserts that this is not necessary and the papers he has presented are legally sufficient; nonetheless, ICE won't drop the case and the immigration judges -- one avowing he is under the authority of Homeland Security! -- won't terminate.

Friday, December 9, 2011

USCIS Official Jaime Yslas Testifies Falsely About Dual Citizenship

From the 2008 transcript of the prosecution questioning of USCIS agent Jaime Yslas during Esteban Tiznado's 2008 trial for Illegal Reentry

In addition to the false and misleading testimony of a US government official, this post documents the successful appeal of Esteban's cousin in June, 2011,
relying on the same evidence that also proves Esteban's citizenship

Last week I had the opportunity to read the transcript for Esteban Tiznado's 2008 trial in which an Arizona jury found him "Not Guilty" of Illegal Reentry because the copious evidence of his father's U.S. citizenship was consistent with Esteban's defense of U.S. citizenship, as argued by his court-appointed counsel, Jesse Smith.

The chief witness for the prosecution was Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) agent Jaime Yslas who, he asserted, was the "subject matter expert" on citizenship policies for District 25, which encompasses Arizona and Nevada.

If this guy's the "expert" no wonder U.S. citizens are ending up deported.

In addition to partial and misleading characterizations of the case documents and agency practices, Yslas made a statement about dual citizenship and nationality that is simply inaccurate. This and other partial truths Yslas made were all toward the end of depriving Tiznado of his U.S. citizenship.

Throughout the hearing ,the prosecution points out instances in which Tiznado states he is born in Mexico and a citizen of Mexico -- and the defense shows all the statements Tiznado made indicating that he is a U.S. citizen. Tiznado's attorney, Smith, points out that at the various points at which Tiznado failed to appeal his deportations and accepted the government's designation of him as a citizen of Mexico that he was in government custody and that conceding this would be a way to be released from it.

Smith also points out that Tiznado's statements acknowledging birth in Mexico, and thus Mexican citizenship, do not contradict an assertion of U.S. citizenship as well. In response, the prosecution pursues the following line of inquiry with CIS agent Yslas:
Q. Jaime, there's a discussion earlier about dual citizenship. If a person from another country applies for United States citizenship, can he retain or she retain their citizenship from that other country?

A. To become a U.S. citizen, whether you are naturalized or you derive citizenship, you are required to take an oath of allegiance where you denounce citizenship from your original country of birth or citizenship.

Q. So the United States does not recognize dual citizenship?

A. No, sir, but they recognize that other countries will possibly recognize dual citizenship.
This statement is demonstrably false. Here's a correct statement of U.S. policy on dual citizenship, derived from a definition of dual nationality, appearing courtesy of the State Department - drawing on 8 USC 1481 sec. 349 (a) (1):

The concept of dual nationality means that a person is a citizen of two countries at the same time ... Persons may have dual nationality by automatic operation of different laws rather than by choice. For example, a child born in a foreign country to U.S. citizen parents may be both a U.S. citizen and a citizen of the country of birth.

A U.S. citizen may acquire foreign citizenship by marriage, or a person naturalized as a U.S. citizen may not lose the citizenship of the country of birth. U.S. law does not mention dual nationality or require a person to choose one citizenship or another. Also, a person who is automatically granted another citizenship does not risk losing U.S. citizenship. However, a person who acquires a foreign citizenship by applying for it may lose U.S. citizenship. In order to lose U.S. citizenship, the law requires that the person must apply for the foreign citizenship voluntarily, by free choice, and with the intention to give up U.S. citizenship.

Note that there is no requirement for someone who derives citizenship, i.e., obtains it automatically by operation of law, to swear allegiance to the United States, a ludicrous requirement even hypothetically since this happens at birth. Also, the policy statement concludes, "The U.S. Government recognizes that dual nationality exists but does not encourage it as a matter of policy because of the problems it may cause." Note the initial reference to acquiring dual nationality due to an "automatic operation of different laws" -- the circumstance for Esteban's U.S. citizenship -- and the final reference requiring "intent" for relinquishing U.S. citizenship.

(I am quoting from the government paraphrasing 8 USC 1401 sec. 349 to emphasize that the U.S. government's policy of recognizing dual nationality or dual citizenship is the government's own interpretation of the statute, not mine.)

In other words, the CIS expert for District 25, in charge of adjudicating citizenship claims for the last 15 years, either does not know or is deliberately misstating a crucial policy on dual citizenship.

Other issues that come up raising serious questions about how the CIS handling of acquired citizenship claims for people born in Mexico are the time frame for these adjudications and Yslas's statement minimizing the importance of using an attorney when appealing a denial of a claim to U.S. citizenship.

Timeline Problem
The CIS received N-600 applications to award Certificates of U.S. Citizenship to the ten Tiznado children on June 18, 1981. CIS did not even bother to respond to the application until May 5, 1989, EIGHT YEARS LATER!

The Office of Inspector for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should look into the response times for N600 applications for people born in Mexico in comparison for those on behalf of people born in other countries -- I don't know anyone of European descent who had to wait EIGHT YEARS for a decision on an application for US citizenship. This delay itself is a sign of bad faith on the part of the CIS.

Mischaracterizing Relevance of Attorneys to an Appeal
CIS allows appeals of its N-600 decisions, for a price. As Smith points out, in 1989 that price as $110/person, or $1,100 for the Tiznado brood, not to mention attorney fees. The prosecution attempts to minimize this by pointing out that attorneys are not required for these appeals, and gets Yslas to play along:
Q: Do most people who apply for citizenship have a lawyer
representing them?
A: Very few do, sir.
The effect here is to suggest that lack of resources for a lawyer is no obstacle to a successful appeal and to further insinuate that the absence of an appeal implies a weak case for the Tiznados' citizenship claims. Both of these inferences are false. Of course an applicant with no legal training and no resources is going to give up, and this says nothing about the viability of their underlying claims. As the government expert and in the interest of justice, it would be Yslas's responsibility to explain this.

Nirav Parikh of the Parikh Law Group, LLC, Heartland Immigration, a national firm, told me his office receives about six inquires daily concerning denials of N-600 applications "from all over the world," estimating "five out of these six are viable, but only one of these five have the financial resources" to hire his firm, and thus about 80% either will not pursue the appeal or do so at a severe disadvantage: "For any appeal you need an attorney, someone who is familiar with the issues," Parikh explained, "You can do anything on your own, but you can't do it well an attorney," a point born out in the Tiznado case in particular.

Successful N-600 Appeal for Humberto Tiznado
As mentioned earlier, Esteban Tiznado's cousin, Humberto Tiznado, also had been deported and also had his initial application for US citizenship turned down. However, an attorney with the Federal Public Defenders office in San Diego, Sara Peloquin, filed an appeal and on June 11, 2011 prevailed. USCIS found that Humberto, who also had been in prison for Illegal Reentry, was indeed a U.S. citizen and that he had acquired this from his father, also called Humberto (and also wrongfully deported in the 1970s).

Humberto's great-grandfather is Esteban's grandfather. The CIS found that the copious documents of Esteban's grandfather's and his uncle's (Humberto's grandfather's) birth and presence in Arizona, obtained by a private investigator the Federal Defenders hired, proved that Miguel Gonzales Tiznado (Humberto's father) was born in Arizona in 1915. In doing so, the CIS relied on documents that should have been used by ICE to authenticate Esteban Tiznado's claims for U.S. citizenship through his father, Jesus Tiznado, the brother of Miguel Gonzales Tiznado. Had they followed the law, they would have heeded Esteban's plea to investigate further, rather than just throw him out, again.

Bad Faith at the CIS
During the initial questioning the prosecutor sought to establish that the CIS is a neutral party ("[Prosecutor]: How would you describe your relationship with the applicant? Are you their adversary?
[Yslas]: No, sir.") and thus their 1989 assessment of the application should be taken at face value. During the closing statement the prosecutor references statements by the CIS in 1989 claiming Jesus Tiznado was born in Mexico and says, "I can't imagine that the citizenship office would just manufacture that. I mean, that doesn't make any sense. Why would
they do that?"

Why indeed? Why did Jaime Yslas invent claims about the U.S. policy on dual citizenship to reflect poorly on Esteban, even while asserting no adversarial relationship between them? Why did CIS take 8 years before reviewing Esteban's N-600? Why did Yslas imply that one could effectively appeal a denial of an N-600 application without an attorney?

These are not hypothetical questions but part of the sad record of ethnic cleansing by the CIS. That someone with an Hispanic name is part of this should come as no surprise. The deportation machine would shut down without their participation. (Anyone who has spent a little time in an immigration jail knows that much of the daily business is conducted in Spanish, so much so that non-Spanish-speaking, English-speaking immigrants object to not being able to follow what is being said to them while in ICE custody.)

The fact that the immigration attorney is receiving calls daily from people who have viable U.S. citizenship claims CIS denied but that would appear to prevail on appeal, yet who lack the means to proceed, especially in light of Humberto Tiznado's effective appeal obtained through such services, is a matter of great importance to the civil rights of thousands and even tens of thousands of U.S. citizens.

In overruling a defense motion for a dismissal, District Court Judge Frank Zapata explained the central factual question on which the 12 members of the jury would decide.

The jury reviewed the CIS documents and decided Esteban was a U.S. citizen.

Instead of the prosecutor's hypothetical question, the real question is, Why assume that the mishandling of Jesus Diego Tiznado's application for his children's citizenship certificates is an isolated case? The refusal to recognize the U.S. citizenship for applicants born in Mexico deserves close scrutiny by the DHS Office of the Inspector General.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Speaking of Lawsuits Filed by U.S. Citizens Falsely Imprisoned by ICE......

In response to the post last week about the government's false imprisonment and kidnapping of Esteban Tiznado, a reader posted a comment suggesting lawsuits are in order. Indeed.

Thankfully, people are filing these, and a recent judge magistrate's advisory decision out of North Carolina provides encouragement.
As reported by Paul McEnroe in the Star-Tribune, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and attorneys shuttled Anthony Clarke among various immigration jails for 43 days, even though they had clear evidence of his U.S. citizenship.

Plaintiff Anthony A. Clarke is a citizen of the United States. Notwithstanding that objectively verifiable fact, officer[s] of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") directed the unlawful arrest and detention of plaintiff in immigration custody...
The individuals named as decision-makers in Clarke's arrest and imprisonment are Special Agent Ulrich Palmer Denig, Special Agent Brenner Jennifer Skwira, and ICE Chief Counsel Barry Chait, Deputy Chief Counsel Ann M. Tanke, Assistant Chief Counsel Daniel Pornschloegl, and Assistant Chief Counsel Daniel Hetfield.

In October, 2010, Mark Lyttle, represented by Troutman and Sanders and the ACLU, filed lawsuits in North Carolina and Georgia.

On November 14, 2011, a judge magistrate in North Carolina issued the first substantive ruling, albeit advisory, on the merits of Lyttle's case. The governments motions to dismiss were largely DENIED and, if the federal judge responsible for the final ruling on this matter follows the advisory ruling, Mr. Lyttle should have his day in court.

In a 30-page advisory opinion, U.S. Magistrate Judge William Webb writes in response to the government's Motion to Dismiss due to the discretionary character of duties assigned to those responsible for deporting criminal aliens: "[T]his analysis ignores one crucial fact: these statutes give immigration officials the authority to detain 'aliens', and Plaintiff is not an alien."

Meanwhile, Esteban Tiznado, following ICE agents refusing his plea for an immigration hearing to present evidence of his U.S. citizenship, is penniless, homeless, and desperate in Mexico. Is it really the right policy choice for the government to deport anyone agents unfettered by public or agency scrutiny decides to deport and then dip into taxpayer funds to pay-out the few fortunate enough to make it back and find gutsy lawyers willing to take on a major bureaucracy happy to spend our money to defend its lawbreaking? When is the Department of Justice going to step up to the plate and start charging these agents and attorneys with false imprisonment and kidnapping?
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