Eduardo Caraballo claims he was racially profiled when police detained him for days in order to verify his legal status, despite the fact that he is Puerto Rican.
In the suburban town of Berwyn, outside of Chicago, the police entered a school owned by Caraballo’s mother and found a stolen vehicle, which Caraballo claimed he was storing for a friend.
He was taken into police custody. However after 48 hours he was interviewed by an ICE agent, and then taken into a correctional facility. “She did not believe I was Puerto Rican because of the way I look and the way I talk,” he said. “I guess I have a Mexican accent.”
His mother brought his birth certificate to show he was born in Puerto Rico, making him a U.S. citizen. Still agents asked him to describe his life in Puerto Rico, which the 32-year-old man left at the age of 18. Dissatisfied by his account, agents decided to detain him over the weekend and finally released him on Monday, May 24.
Being caught with a stolen vehicle is certainly grounds for being taken into police custody. But on what basis do the police decide he “looks illegal”? And how is it that a birth certificate is not enough to prove one’s citizenship?
Representatives for ICE contend, “This individual was held in local law enforcement custody over the weekend on an ICE detainer based on initially available information that he was an alien subject to deportation. ICE took custody of him on Monday morning and released him within one hour, after his identity was verified, and the ICE detainer was canceled.”
However attorney Chris Bergin, who has expressed interest in taking up Caraballo’s case, argues, “That is an example of what we’re facing as we see a broken immigration system…when it comes to Latinos, what has happened is they have flipped the coin on its head: the burden of proof now is on them to prove that they are legal, that they are citizens. … That is not what America is about.”
Jacqueline Stevens, professor of political science at Northwestern University told CNN that through her research discovered that approximately 4,000 of the 400,000 people detained by ICE were U.S. citizens and had been detained on average from 1 to 3 months.
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