Attempted Deportation of U.S. Citizen Highlights Flaws, Trends in Immigration System
In 2008 the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agency attempted to deport a lawful U.S. citizen as part of an aggressive campaign to deport illegal immigrants with criminal records. The man, who had in actuality been a U.S. citizen since 1975, was arrested during a crosscheck of federal databases and detained for 43 days.
His story serves as the backdrop for a national trend in the immigration system that reveals several flaws and opportunities for potentially unlawful questioning and even improper deportation of properly documented citizens.
One issue with the system is how ICE agents interpret and enforce their mandate to go after illegal immigrants with criminal records. For example, an over-zealous agent who is unaware (or even willfully ignorant) of a so-called illegal immigrant’s history may overlook key facts that would otherwise aid them in determining the legitimacy of that individual’s citizenship. Agent errors like these can eventually lead to wrongful detainment and deportation.
Also in question is the immigration system’s bureaucracy, which can be counterproductive and uncommunicative between parties. Judges issue orders for deportation solely on the information presented to them, but if they are not aware of the entire truth, awful consequences can occur. Unfortunately, the current system does not always provide accurate information on residency status. Even when the information is correct, it may not be sent in a timely manner to the people deciding whether individuals are to be deported.
Contradictory evidence and procedures also are a problem. There are mandatory regulations that must be adhered to regardless of whether governmental parties are aware that contradictory evidence exists. Procedural importance can unfortunately outweigh human importance.
In the case of the man arrested in 2008, during an unrelated arrest for driving without a license, the criminal crosscheck was cause enough for two immigration agents to interview him. During the interview, one of the agents erroneously recorded the gentleman’s residency status as a “permanent resident” instead of as a citizen. Combined with a previous criminal conviction from the mid-1990s, that agent’s error was enough to keep the detained man in the system and eventually deport him.
The system that currently exists in the United States has weaknesses. Some of those weaknesses, unfortunately, affect some our citizens; recognizing the gaps in the system and identifying areas for possible improvement is necessary in order to develop a more accurate and efficient system. Regardless if you are a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident, if you are facing criminal deportation you have rights. One of those rights is to talk to a criminal defense attorney experienced in immigration and deportation matters.