Monday, April 22, 2013

Recent Cases of U.S. Citizens Detained and Deported at Reynosa/Hidalgo: DHS Business as Usual

From Google Analytics screenshot, click for full image

City:   "Reynosa"         

Keyword:  "have a n600 interview but stuck in mexico deported"

Every once in a while I check the keyword searches that are bringing people to this site.  Just as The New Yorker magazine is publishing a story about Mark Lyttle's deportation in 2008-2009 I've been receiving over the past week several visits to my site from what appears to be someone stranded in Reynosa who is frantically trying to figure out how to attend an interview for his N-600 application for a Certificate of U.S. Citizenship.  (The screenshot above is for a visit to the site on Thursday, April 18.)

(UPDATE: 4/25 I finally had a chance to read the entire article carefully and agree with my colleague who said he found William Finnegan's plagiarism of my reporting here and my law review article "appalling."  I'll document this in detail shortly but it's quite clear that Finnegan simply plagiarized important chunks of the article and that he failed to properly attribute others.  I had an inkling this might happen to some extent but it wasn't until today that I realized how aggressive he had been in appropriating my work and representing it as his own.)

If you're a U.S. citizen but you're indigent and you've been deported, it's still extremely tough to fight the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) ethnic cleansing mindset if not policies, as this individual knows from reading the posts here on Andres Robles, a U.S. citizen whose return was rebuffed in 2011 at the Brownsville, Texas crossing even after a Citizenship and Immigration Services field officer sent him a letter telling him his Certificate of U.S. Citizenship had been approved but he would be unable to convey it to Andres because Andres had been deported.

(Andres's sister Maria told me recently that he had problems obtaining his social security card and is still looking for an attorney to sue the US government for damages from his wrongful deportation and its aftermath; yes, you'd think it would easy but the attorneys who know the deportation laws are not litigators and the litigators lack the training to take on the complexities of deportation law; U.S. citizens who lack the resources to avoid being deported are typically not in a position to find attorneys to help them sue the federal government.)

U.S. Citizens: Still Having Problems Returning from Reynosa/Hidalgo
Reynosa is where you find yourself after you've been flown from, among other places, the Stewart Detention Center near Fort Benning in Lumpkin, Georgia.   That's how Mark Lyttle ended up there and the reason I visited in the summer of 2009.   There are several state and informal shelters and refugee camps close to and right on the Rio Grade; hundreds of people from all parts of Mexico and the rest of Latin and South America are fed or stay there each day, either because they've just been deported from the U.S. or because they are contemplating entering.

Centro de Apoyo Cristiano/ A Indigentes y Deportados, Reynosa, Mexico
June, 2009  (click to enlarge)

Today I decided to do a little searching online to see what resources a U.S. citizen who had been deported this month and was indigent would find, to see if one would have an easier chance of figuring out how to return from Reynosa than Mark did in 2009.  It sure doesn't look that way, which is probably why this person is ending up here: there still is no clear government policy much less web page information for U.S. citizens who have been deported.

I have no further information about the underlying facts of citizenship for the person doing this search (please e-mail if you read this, jacqueline-stevens AT, but I do know that in March, 2013 a U.S. citizen born in Texas and wrongfully ordered deported was taken into custody by Border Patrol officers in Hidalgo, the U.S. entry point on the other side of the bridge from Reynosa, and brought to a detention center in Louisiana, even though she had a certified copy of her birth certificate issued shortly after her birth in Texas.

The only fix for this is assigned attorneys for anyone being deported, especially because some people take the word of the government and wrongly believe they are not U.S. citizens even though they really are, or they may not have the cognitive skills to meaningfully participate in the deportation proceedings.

(No, a national database won't work: it would have simply recorded her unlawful removal order and the guards would say her birth certificate was fake or that it was issued for someone else.  Mark and his social security number were in the federal database ICEagents saw and listed as a U.S. citizen but that didn't stop ICE from deporting him.)

Government Resources Today
Today someone in Reynosa trying to figure out what to do if they were a U.S. citizen and couldn't attend their N-600 interview because of being deported would see this, note the link for "Consular agency: Reynosa":

But then if you clicked on "Consular Agency Reynosa" you'd see this:

Turns out that the Reynosa Consular Office is closed, though it seems unlikely that it is for the reason stated elsewhere on the website, i.e., the resignation of the Reynosa Consular Agent:

The resignation was in September, 2012.  It's been seven months.  Our Foreign Service lacks one other person who speaks Spanish and can manage an office?

The more likely explanation is that the U.S. has been scared out.  There have been frequent attacks at the consular office in Matamoros and the Reynosa office was officially closed in 2010 because of drug war violence.

With no consular services in a dangerous border city, the only "welcome committee" for deported U.S. citizens are the same border patrol guards who greeted Mark Lyttle and threatened him with prison time for "False Personation of a U.S. Citizen."

The woman from Texas was taken to a detention center and not released until her family, who knew she was returning to her home country, obtained a lawyer.  But the vast majority of deported U.S. citizens are coming out of jails and prisons, and their families tend not to know they are being deported.

The DHS's complacency about the plights of these U.S. citizens is shocking at face value, and also because it is so at odds with how most U.S. Americans feel and also our laws.  That's probably why Brian Hale, Assistant Director of the Office of Public Affairs at DHS,  is so inventive when it comes to sidestepping requests for concrete information about ICE's treatment of U.S. citizens.  (Hale has zero integrity; not only does he use his office for propaganda, he's also ordered ICE officers to  violate the rules and First Amendment rights that authorize detained respondents to meet with the press and visitors.)

In short, Hale is telling the press that ICE is no longer deporting and detaining U.S. citizens at the levels I have documented (1% of people ICE detains for removal are U.S. citizens and about .5% of those deported are U.S. citizens, mostly through derived or acquired U.S. citizenship from parents born or naturalized in the U.S. and of Latino descent).  And yet Hale refuses to provide any agency data to back up this assertion.  This is exactly what happened, by the way, in the time frames Hale now seems not to be disputing: ICE propagandists Richard Rocha, Virginia Kice and others were telling the media in 2008 and 2009 that ICE "never" detained or deported U.S. citizens even though this was obviously happening and being reported, just as it is now and just as was happening in very similar reports on immigration agent misconduct in the early 1930s.

ICE has had over a year to release data that would contradict what I reported on the basis of reviewing findings from over 8,000 records maintained by the Florence Project in Arizona, interviews with immigration judges, interviews with ICE agents, and interviews with deported and detained U.S. citizens and their attorneys.  EOIR data also state that 1% of its cases in 2010 were adjourned because of claims of U.S. citizenship, a number that does not mean that all these cases resulted in determinations of U.S. citizenship but that may still understate the total because not all immigration judges tabulate detailed reasons for the adjournments and because a successful appeal to the Board of Immigration Review or the federal courts overturning an adverse decision by an immigration judge would not show up as a case adjourned because of U.S. citizenship.

In short, despite repeated requests from scholars, members of Congress and the national media and the fact that the reporting criteria for DHS and EOIR indicate they have the data, these agencies are not coming clean.  (And, the DOJ also has the underlying data on federal court decisions overturning instances when the DHS makes administrative mistakes in adjudicating determinations of U.S. citizenship and could release that as well.)

On April 20, 2013 I sent Hale an email referencing his comments to the New Yorker reporter William Finnegan and the fact-checker who spoke with me as well.  I requested data to support his claim that ICE's alleged changes in procedures (easier found on paper than in practice) have resulted in a decrease in the number of U.S. citizens detained or deported.

Hale did not reply to this request from The New Yorker nor from me.  If he does I will post it.  
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