ICE detains, deports U.S. citizens, and their numbers don't add up

By Teddy Wilson
The Texas Independent
Reposted with permission

Jakadrien Turner ran away from home in the fall of 2010, and ended up being deported to Columbia. Turner, then fourteen years old, wasn’t an undocumented immigrant, but a US citizen from Dallas, Texas.

According to reporting by WFAA Channel 8, Turner was arrested by police for theft in Houston, and gave police officers a fake name. When the police checked the name it belonged to a 22-year-old illegal immigrant from Columbia with outstanding warrants for her arrest.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials reportedly processed Turner’s fingerprints, but didn’t confirm her identity. She was then deported to Colombia, where the Colombian government gave her a work card and released her. After her grandmother tracked down Turner through Facebook, U.S. Federal authorities notified the U.S. Embassy in Colombia. However, the Colombian government now has her in a detention facility and won’t release her.

ICE told WFAA that the agency “takes these allegations very seriously,” and acknowledges that there are instances where people provide ICE with inaccurate information regarding who they are and their immigration status.

The same year that Turner was deported after being arrested in Houston, another man who was born in Houston was deported after being detained in South Texas. Luis Alberto Delgado grew up in Mexico after his parents divorced. According to an article in the Houston Chronicle, Delgado was stopped by a Jim Wells County Sheriff who called the US Border Patrol. Despite having a birth certificate, a state of Texas ID card and a Social Security card proving his citizenship he was taken into custody.

Isaias Torres, a Houston immigration attorney who represents Delgado pro bono, told the Texas Independent that Delgado was detained and held without representation for eight hours, and was eventually coerced into signing a statement that he was in the country illegally and born in Mexico. “The officials detaining him were taunting him and telling him that they knew he was a ‘wetback’,” said Torres. “There was no evidence that he had false documents. The only evidence they had was that he spoke no English.”

“There are two types of US citizens that are deported,” Barbra Hines of the Immigration Clinic at the University of Texas Law School told the Texas Independent. “There are citizens that were actually born in the United States, and there are citizens that were born outside of the United States but by virtue of their parents’ birth are also citizens.”

Hines went on to say that citizens not born in the United States are more likely to be deported, and in many cases these people are unaware they are actually citizens. “These people think that they immigrate as permanent residents,” said Hines. “But it turns out that they are citizens.” However, these cases can be very hard to prove due to migratory patterns of families and lack of documentation.

A growing number of citizens have been detained and deported as a result of the Obama Administration’s aggressive immigration policies. According to one study by Jacqueline Stevens of Northwestern University, 82 citizens were held for deportation from 2006 to 2008 at two immigration detention centers in Arizona. These people were held for periods as long as a year, and were finally freed only after federal judges determined they were citizens.

The deportation of citizens due to improper processing of paperwork may not be the only administrative problem within ICE. A recent study by Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University shows a high “discrepancy ratio” between the number of people ICE claimed to have removed and those it can document as being removed (see TRAC excerpt below).

It has been over fifteen years since the last overhaul of immigration policy, and Hines says that “we are way overdue for an overhaul of our immigration laws.” However, in the current political climate, any talk of a change in immigration policy has been framed in the rhetoric of ‘enforcement first.’ “I don’t believe that they [Bush and Obama Administrations] were ever serious about immigration reform,” said Hines. “They have been talking about enforcement for years, without talking performance based standards. Meanwhile it has come at a tremendous cost to families, and millions of taxpayer dollars being spent.”

Excerpt from TRAC FOIA Appeal to ICE, Jan. 4, 2012

Among the data sought were records covering all instances where individuals were apprehended, detained or deported. We found vast discrepancies between the agency’s public enforcement claims and the details in the records that it released to us.

category case-by-case
data release
ICE public
claims
discrepancy
ratio
Number ICE apprehended 21,339 102,034 4.8
Number ICE deported 6,906 166,075 24.0
Number detained by ICE 6,778 233,417 34.4

As is summarized in the table above, in its official reports, testimony and press releases ICE publicly claimed that it arrested almost five times the number of individuals as is shown in the agency’s own case-by-case records The agency also has publicly claimed that it deported 24 times more individuals than indicated in the case-by-case records and that it detained 34 times more individuals than the records indicate. TRAC found the same pattern of gross discrepancies in each of the other information categories covered by our FOIA request.

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