On June 7, 2013 an immigration judge terminated deportation proceedings for a 54 year old United States citizen who had been locked up without a lawyer for 14 months, one of three individuals to contact me in the last two weeks from Houston, SPC.
ICE and the Corrections Corporation of America that held Mark Lyttle in 2008 are still holding US citizens.
The full letter from FS I received yesterday is here, redacted because he has not given me permission to publish his name. It is just a page. Anyone who thinks Mark Lyttle's case is a one-off should read this letter and then read why this is still happening. As long as poor U.S. citizens of Mexican descent, or the perception they are of Mexican descent, are locked up, ICE is going to be falsely imprisoning and banishing U.S. citizens.
On April 29, 2013 The New Yorker published an article by William Finnegan "The Deportation Machine" about Mark Lyttle's deportation to Mexico. (More later on Finnegan's plagiarism of my work, and the New Yorker's bizarre apology and inadequate efforts at redress.) John Morton, Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, replied indignantly to the article, claiming new "stringent safeguards to protect against the possibility of a citizen’s detainment or removal..."
As soon as I read Morton's inventions, I knew that I would again need to start documenting U.S. citizens being detained and deported. ICE is lying today just as they did when I first started doing this research in 2008. ICE propagandists have gone from denying that it ever happened -- that was the company line in 2008 and 2009 -- to now saying that they stopped doing this.
Alas, it was as easy to do this last month as it was in 2008 to 2011.
Daniel (not his real name)
A few weeks ago I came across an April, 2012 Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) decision affirming the appeal of a respondent who was indignant that EOIR adjudicator Jimmie Benton refused to recognize his claim for U.S. citizenship because he did not know the law on this.
I called the locator system, learned Daniel was still detained and wrote him a letter. The letter was properly addressed but not accepted by the CCA mail room because my research assistant had not used an "alien number" on the envelope -- on what legal grounds can CCA refuse a properly addressed piece of mail just because it lacks some weird code they use and that most people cannot obtain unless they are able to contact the person they are writing?
In the event, Daniel had just had the remanded hearing, again before Benton, who didn't understand the law in 2012 and still didn't understand it in 2013. Daniel told me over the phone just before he was deported that Benton said that he would only terminate proceedings if Daniel could produce a Certificate of Citizenship, something that costs $600. Daniel is indigent. He told me that it took several months for his request for a fee waiver to be approved and he was still waiting on the final Certificate. He had all the necessary underlying documents but Benton refused to consider them. (FS also did not have a Certificate of Citizenship but in his case the IJ relied on the underlying documents and on that basis terminated the proceedings.)
(To be clear, a Certificate of Citizenship is NOT a requirement for U.S. citizenship. Anyone who is a U.S. citizen by birth has that status because of meeting the underlying criteria, e.g., birth in the United States or birth outside the U.S. to a parent or parents who are U.S. citizens.)
A few days after public affairs in Houston was alerted to my request to speak with Daniel, he was shipped out to Juarez, Mexico. There he will be facing the same problem that Andres Robles encountered after ICE deported him to Mexico in 2008. Three years later he was sent a letter, care of his lawyer, saying that his application for the Certificate of Citizenship had been approved but that it would be impossible for Andres to pick it up because, the USCIS Field Office Director acknowledged, the government had deported him. (In the last few weeks, thanks to the persistence of his sister, Maria, Andres obtained the representation of Andrew Free of the Ozment Law Firm and will be filing a civil rights lawsuit against the thugs who falsely imprisoned and then banished Andres.)
Robert (not his real name)
Robert's situation is somewhat more complicated, not because of anything he did but because he lives in a primitive era of ethnic cleansing, such that his mother and grandfather were treated by their government as foreigners and not the U.S. citizens they really were.
Robert's great grandmother was born in Texas in 1902, and her father and mother also were born in Texas. She lived in Mercedes, Texas but gave birth to her son, Robert's grandfather, Gino, in Mexico. Gino was by law a U.S. citizen at birth but instead of being recognized as such, when he entered the United States he was given a green card and then later, long after his daughter, Robert's mother Rachel was born, became a naturalized U.S. citizen.
Rachel then also grew up with a green card. I've spoken several times with her and Robert. They had hired an attorney but he didn't understand the possibility of the acquired citizenship. Robert has a forthcoming hearing. Meanwhile we are trying to assemble the documents underlying these claims so his attorney can present the probative evidence that should trigger his release. This is actually the responsibility of the U.S. government--Morton's 2009 memorandum requires ICE to conduct investigations into claims of U.S. citizenship. His family's green cards and naturalization means all the underlying birth certificates and marriage certificates are already in the Citizenship and Immigration Service database, but Robert's been locked up for over a year. He said his deportation officer did nothing to help him.
Robert and Daniel have signed privacy waivers and we will be obtaining their files shortly. I also will be writing to FS and will be asking him to sign a waiver as well. Hopefully we can find an attorney who will help him hold the government accountable for his false imprisonment as well. (FS had already been through this once in 2004 when an IJ then as well terminated the deportation order.)
As I've been writing, the only way to follow the U.S. Constitution and prevent U.S. citizens from being in the unlawful custody of ICE is to provide all detained respondents assigned attorneys. As these cases show, generations of racial profiling have deprived people the status and thus knowledge of their U.S. citizenship. The U.S. government has been stripping people of their U.S. citizenship and has an obligation to stop doing this; that's only possible if everyone in these ICE jails has an assigned attorney.
Finally, it is urgent that we not lose sight of the big picture: the borders of the nation-state are arbitrary and it is as ridiculous to restrict our movement on their basis today as it was to confine people to parishes in England and transport them to America when they were caught in London without a pass.
The reason I focus on the detention and deportation of U.S. citizens is the same reason that slavery abolitionists supported criminal prosecutions for the especially brutal treatment of slaves. The prosecutions forced the public to think about what slavery looked like in practice. The unprovoked shootings of slaves and detentions and deportations of U.S. citizens are expressions of these respective institutions when they are doing what they are supposed to do, and not rare aberrations. Slavery and deportations are barbaric; it is as impossible to deport people without unlawfully harming respondents, including U.S. citizens, as it was to have slavery without unjust, horrifying violence.