Friday, February 19, 2016

How Many DOJ Attorneys Does It Take to Deport a U.S. Citizen? Boston Hearing Today


photo from Robert's mother, provided to Cardozo Law School Immigrant Rights Justice Clinic for lawsuit exhibit

Oral arguments on a Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment are scheduled for today at 2 p.m. in Boston.  Six federal attorneys are named on briefs claiming someone with copious documentation of birth in Lawrence, Massachusetts is not a U.S. citizen

As reported here previously, Robert Dominguez was born in 1979 in Lawrence, Massachusetts and deported in 1999 to the Dominican Republic.  A decade later, in 2009, he procured a U.S. passport and returned.  In 2011, he was arrested on a drug charge and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the State Department decided to ignore copious photographic and documentary evidence and rescind Robert's passport.

(A previous team of civil attorneys led by a lawyer without expertise in citizenship and immigration law filed a lawsuit under the Federal Torts Claims Act, but did not first fix Robert's legal status; the case was dismissed.)

Robert is out of jail, but terrified of being deported again.  For Robert, citizenship is not a protection against deportation, and a run-in with the law means a ticket to the DR.  (I'm no expert, but I imagine that being hounded being ICE is not standard treatment for addiction.)

After receiving documents from the Deportation Research Clinic at Northwestern University, the Cardozo Law School Immigration Justice Clinic stepped in to see if they could figure this out.  

In 2013, a team led by Clinic Fellow Andrea Saenz met with Robert and initiated negotiations with the government.  When common sense failed to prevail, the Clinic went to court.  Under 8 U.S.C. § 1503 (Denial of Rights and Privileges as a U.S. Citizen), a judge can order the State Department and the rest of the U.S. government to fix their records and recognize Robert's rights as a U.S. citizen.  

In the ensuing years, Attorney Saenz and the Immigration Justice Clinic students amassed a shocking amount of evidence, including a photograph of Robert's mother pregnant with Robert, as verified by their location in a Lawrence hospital with another family who gave birth in that same time frame.  How many of us born here would have that?  And how about the Baby Dominguez hospital bed tag she saved?


The information above matches the information on Robert's birth certificate that was contemporaneously filed at the Lawrence City Hall, where it exists today.  

The one problem with the birth certificate is that Robert's mother's legal first name is Juana and not Patria.  To obtain sponsorship for a "green card" she was using the name of her husband's sister, who died at the age of nine.  You can read the details of this piece here. The bottom line is that none of this discredits the copious photograpic and documentary evidence of Robert's birth in the United States.  

The DR birth certificate Robert's mother procured when he was a toddler caused confusion in 1999 when Robert was 19 and in a remote detention center without contact with his parents or an attorney.  But in the intervening years this was all straighted out and the U.S. Consular office issued Robert a U.S. passport in 2009.

It was seemingly straightened out again in 2011, when the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service initiated a fraud investigation.   According to filed statements, "On October 13, 2011, Agent Baldwin conducted a field visit to Lawrence City Hall to personally verify the validity of the Massachusetts birth certificate Mr. Dominguez had used to obtain his passU.S. passport." 

Having found the original, authentic birth certificate with information that matched the biographical information in Robert's file, one would think the case would be over and the government would find a different way to waste taxpayer funds.  

Instead, Agent Douglas Baldwin decided that the birth certificate with Robert's name belonged to another individual.  Baldwin decided that Robert somehow came into "possession of a valid birth certificate that belongs to another person but bears his same name, childhood address, month, and year of birth" (Plaintiff Brief, Dec. 18, 2015).  Neither Agent Baldwin, nor the six federal attorneys denying Robert his lawful recognition as a U.S. citizen have been able to find the "other" Robert Dominguez, a different individual who has to exist to claim this is not Robert's birth certificate.  

According to the Plaintiff's Motion, 
Defendant's theory is that this 'doppelganger' Roberto Carlos Dominguez was born in the same town where Plaintiff grew up; was born in the same month and year as Plaintiff, early November 1979; at the time of his birth, had a mother living at 70 Cross Street, the same address where Plaintiff and his parents lived throughout his early years; and that, through some incredible coincidence, Plaintiff was able to obtain this individual's birth certificate.  (Pl. Motion of Law for Sum. Judgment, Dec. 18, 2015, p. 16)
 The Plaintiff brief also points out that, "Unlike the U.S. birth certificate, there is no corroborating evidence of a Dominican birth for Plaintiff, such as hospital documents or evidence of Plaintiff's mother pregnant or even present in the DR in 1979." (Pl. Motion of Law for Sum. Judgment, Dec. 18, 2015, p. 19)

I reviewed the facts in this case Wednesday with students in "The Rule of Law" seminar I teach.  We were discussing that week's assigned reading of Franz Kafka's The Trial (Der Prozess).  The focus was on Kafka's insights about how the law occupies our interior lives and that we everyday people are the ones who make it happen, not the remote officialdom one finds in texts by Max Weber.  At the same time,  Kafka points out, we preserve a view of the law as universal and beyond the specificities of individual quirks and demands.
 
We, including agent Douglas Baldwin -- with whom I spoke with just long enough to hear a gruff, sincere federal employee who was unmistakably a Boston native -- as well as his attorney colleagues, are the individuals responsible for how we engage the law, including when it comes to a poor kid from Lawrence.  (Baldwin sounded sincere in his desire to speak with me and need to have it cleared with his supervisors; no idea about his motives for deciding there must be another guy out there with the same address and mother as Robert, someone who has never been located and from whom Robert stole a birth certificate.)

By referencing a document from the DR his mother obtained to make the law fit his family's needs - so he would have something that gave him the same parents names as those of his siblings - the following attorneys are relying on a thin, obvious fiction and ignoring the thicker, more believable fiction of his still arbitrary state identity bestowed by the State of Massachusetts and the Government of the United States.

These attorneys are:

Carmen Ortiz, U.S. Attorney
Rayford Farquhar, Asst. U.S. Attorney
Benjamin Mizer, Principal Deputy Asst. Attorney Gen. Civil Division
William Peachey, Director, District Court Section, Office of Immigration Litigation
Elizabeth J. Stevens, Asst. Director, District Court Section, Office of Immigration Litigation,
Brian C. Ward, Trial Attorney, Office of Immigration, Civil Division, US DOJ

Enough with the harassment, yes?  Close the case.  Instead of putting our government's resources into persecuting U.S. citizens, how about supporting attorneys to represent those presently detained and facing a gang of agents and lawyers dedicated to removing people from their la
wful place in the United States?  Are the attorneys above especially otiose robots doing their jobs, or are they offering disingenuous pseudo-legal feints to avoid losing?  Either way, right now, they're the ones fraudulently misstating Dominguez's true identity and trying to sanction government kidnapping.

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2/20/20  UPDATE:  Attorney Saenz reports that at yesterday's hearing the judge seemed impressed by the amount of evidence her team amassed proving Robert's birth in the United States.  I know it's work for Saenz and her students, but it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if they lose they Motion for Summary Judgment and the case goes to trial.  That way the jury and public can see for themselves the absurdity of the government's position and, by extension, the irresponsibility of those advancing it. 

Also, thanks to Dan Kowalski, editor of the LexisNexis Legal Newsroom Immigration Law, for linking to this story and coming up with a better title than the one of my original post, "How Many U.S. Attorneys and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Does It Take to Deport a U.S. Citizen?"  I just changed mine to the one he used because Dan's title also more accurately reflects the distribution of attorneys across various DOJ components.

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