U.S. citizens are being deported from the United States. Does this sound counterintuitive? It should. That’s because it is illegal for the U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) agency to detain or deport a U.S. citizen for an alleged immigration violation. Unfortunately, neither lack of jurisdiction nor illegality has prevented the deportation of U.S. citizens.
According to the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, more than 392,000 illegal immigrants were deported from the United States in the fiscal year 2010. Unfortunately, the U.S. government does not keep track of wrongful deportations, thus it is impossible to know exactly how more in addition to the 392,000 were wrongly deported.
Despite its unwillingness to record wrongful deportations, reports have surfaced to indicate that wrongful deportations are a growing and harmful practice within the United States’ immigration bureaucracy.
In 2007, for example, Pedro Guzman, a mentally challenged U.S. citizen was deported to Tijuana, Mexico. Guzman was picked up near his home in Lancaster, California by Los Angeles County sheriff’s officers on a misdemeanor charge of trespassing. According to police reports, Guzman tried repeatedly to board a private jet. Despite Mr. Guzman’s diminished capacity, the Sheriff’s department handed him over to ICE who subsequently ordered his deportation. While in Mexico, Guzman survived on discarded food and river water. He was found three months later trying to cross the border in Calexico, MX, 100 miles from his drop-off location. The incident has left him severely traumatized.
In 2009 the U.S. government admitted that it wrongly deported a North Carolina native, despite FBI records and other evidence showing that the man was a United States citizen.
Eduardo Caraballo, a U.S. citizen born in the United States, was detained for over three days on suspicion of being an illegal immigrant.
Luis Alberto Delgado was detained and questioned in 2010 for over eight hours before his deportation to Matamoros, Mexico. Delgado was carrying his American birth certificate, Social Security card and Texas ID at the time he was detained. He was readmitted three months after his deportation.
It should be noted that wrongful deportations are relatively few compared to the number of “illegal” immigrants who are expelled from the U.S. each year. However, the trend is alarming because it is indicative of an overwhelmed and increasingly militarized immigration system in the U.S.
Until a designated agency begins tracking wrongful deportations, such grievances will likely be treated with minimal attention. And as State immigration laws grow increasingly hostile, the threat of more “accidental” deportations is increasingly real.