Thursday, June 21, 2012

ICE Kidnaps Another US Citizen In Springfield, Illinois

"There's no jurisdiction for the government to arrest or detain, or let alone deport, citizens. That's otherwise known as kidnapping" -- Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), quoted in Mother Jones.

On May 4, 2012 a couple deportation officers drove in an unmarked car to the home of Springfield, Illinois college student Jhon Erik Ocampo, 26, handcuffed him, and took him to an unmarked building where he was held in a cold cell until early the next morning before being driven across his state the next six days in hand cuffs and shackles.   

Unmarked ICE Office at 2861 Stanton Street, Springfield, Illinois, 
photo by Jhon Ocampo

Fugitive Operations and the Criminal Alien Program, both part of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, for years has been arresting and deporting people whom ICE's own data show are for the most part either not criminals or not aliens -- most of them have been arrested for broken tail lights or other minor infractions, or being in the car or house with someone the agents are seeking.   Jhon and his family experienced the horrors of this last month when ICE agents arrested him even though he and his mother explained to the agents that Jhon was a U.S. citizen.   The agents --the name on the Notice to Appear is Michael Mitchell, Resident Agent in Charge, and Glen Harrington is the Special Agent who signed the Certificate of Service for an immigration court appearance -- ignored their explanations that Mr. Ocampo acquired U.S. citizenship automatically by operation of law in 2002 when his mother naturalized.

Instead, they handcuffed him, put him in the back of their car, and drove him to their Stanton Street hideout.  "You can't even tell it's a federal government building.  It's a little house, not too far from my house," Jhon told me.  He was held in the cold cell adjacent four agents, none of whom heeded his request to look up his citizenship records in their database, something that was not only possible but that the law requires.  "I told them everything, my mom's name and alien number.  I gave them all that.  They said I was being processed.  I told them I'm a citizen.  They should have right there investigated.  But they just took it down.  They didn't follow up on it," Jhon said.

 Jhon's right as a matter of justice and also the law.  It is impossible to repeat this too many times: ICE HAS NO JURISDICTION TO HOLD U.S. CITIZENS AS ALIENS.  (To read more on this law and how its persistent violation amounts to kidnapping, please go here.) (For the ICE Memorandum requiring agents to immediately investigate claims of U.S. citizenship and release anyone who has probative evidence of this lase go here.)

ICE is demonstrably ignoring the law and official policies: when you pick someone up and move them in handcuffs against their will and without legal authority,  it is a serious crime and Rep. Lofgren is right to call it kidnapping, a far more egregious violation of the law and the community's trust than any of the violations for which Jhon allegedly was convicted (the ICE report indicates convictions for auto theft, aggravated assault, and possession of stolen property but this also may contain errors).   (Regardless, our country is not in the habit of banishing citizens for small crimes, or even large ones.)


2007 Google map image of the block for where ICE locked up Jhon Ocampo

Copy firm across the street from unmarked ICE office

On May 5, ICE agents drove Jhon to the Sangamon County jail and held him there for four days.  "I tried to tell them that I was in a car accident but they refused to give me my medication.  I slept on the floor."  He said there were five other men in the cell, and three of them had to sleep on mattresses on the ground; the toilet was behind a wall in the same room.  At no point was he allowed to shower or even given a toothbrush and toothpaste.  "There were blood stains on the walls.  It was very unhealthy."  

A few days later, instead of releasing him, ICE agents picked him up and drove him to another jail, the Tri-County Detention Center in Ullin, Illinois.  "During all the times I was transported I was in handcuffs and shackles.  My last transport before I got released we left Tri-County at 1:20 a.m. on May 10 for Chicago and the woman who drove the van didn't ever stop for us to use the bathroom.  I about pissed my pants in that van.  She didn't let us out till we got to Chicago and that was a seven hour drive with traffic."  Jhon added, "Such unfair treatment.  These people have too much power."  

(A and 2 are the Stanton House and Springfield jail, C is Ullin.)

The scary part is that the drive to Chicago came AFTER the attorney had reached ICE and obtained their agreement to release Jhon.  The attorney told ICE the same thing his mother and Jhon and their own files had revealed all along: Jhon is a U.S. citizen.  Jhon had no idea what was going on: "They wouldn't let me see my mom or family," who had come to visit.  And he was concerned that it took a call from a lawyer and not the law itself to obtain his freedom.  "I'm blessed that I have a very supportive, loving family.  Otherwise I would have been screwed and probably illegally deported to Colombia."

Jhon was upset that no one in Chicago helped arranged for his travel home--his family had to buy him an Amtrak ticket -- or even bothered to apologize.

Before going into the details of his own kidnapping, Jhon expressed concern that his neighborhood had become the stalking grounds of unscrupulous deportation agents.  "They're shutting down Mexican restaurants like crazy.  There used to be seven and now we're down to two.  I'm surprised they're out here hunting people just because they're Hispanic.  You could be just walking on the street and they'll hunt you down.  I got arrested and they went out and were still hunting people out, bringing in two more people."  He also reported unmarked ICE cars taking down license plate numbers of churchgoers in his area who seemed Hispanic.

The fact that this is occurring in Illinois despite Governor Patrick Quinn's bold defiance of the Secure Community program is frightening and suggests once more the urgent need for the Department of Justice to arrest the criminals running the Illinois Criminal Alien Program. 

Yes, of course Jhon is filing a lawsuit and has obtained representation from Paul Grotas.  However, as I've said before, ICE has been responding to lawsuits by paying out our tax money, and not by disciplining the agents responsible for the law-breaking.  The DOJ was right to arrest the police in East Haven when they violated the civil rights of that community.  Now it needs to show some real courage and arrest federal agents who are doing the same thing nationwide.


Anonymous said...

These same agents illegally arrested my husband, a US citizen, born and raised here by US Citizens, and within our borders! I have been hoping you would file a civil rights suit against them and was glad to see you did. Rock on!

They took him to that same house. He spent a horrible night in the snake pit that is Sangamon Jail. I will be watching your case carefully and cheering you on!

Anonymous said...

DON'T SETTLE ON THE TERM THAT THEY "did not break the law". They did. They kidnapped you. Let it go to trial if necessary. A jury will probably award more than the settlement anyways. Other cases involving these same guys rely on the verifiable TRUTH coming out about the way they really are. Please, don't accept their wording.

Anonymous said...

Just saw on PACER the settlement was for $20,000. That's a pathetic amount. Disappointed. :-(

Anonymous said...

A $20,000 settlement? Pathetic.

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