ICE Has Accidentally Deported Thousands of American Citizens

Stories of immigration detention centers are already upsetting enough, but can you imagine how traumatic it must be for legitimate U.S. citizens to be put through this process? It happens more often than you’d think. As Vice News reports, since 2003, over 20,000 U.S. citizens have been either wrongfully detained or outright deported from the country by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Let’s be perfectly clear: U.S. citizens are absolutely protected constitutionally from being deported or even detained in this manner. However, the system we have in place is such a mess that a large number of Americans slip through the fairly wide cracks and become unjust victims of ICE.

Jacqueline Stevens, director of the Deportation Research Clinic at Northwestern University, has studied these accidental detentions and deportations and found them to be surprisingly, and horrifyingly, common. Since there’s no official citizenship database, even U.S. citizens can have trouble proving they were born in the country, as even the current president can attest.

On top of that, immigration courts are overwhelmed, meaning many cases are pushed through quickly without proper research. People accused of being in the country illegally aren’t even guaranteed legal representation; As such, many go through the process without understanding their own rights or someone to help verify their citizenship. Essentially, the system is so flawed that wrongful deportations are the natural conclusion. “It would be truly shocking if this did not result in the deportation of U.S. citizens,” Stevens said.

U.S. leaders may choose not to be too vocal about these errors, but rest assured they are aware of the problem. According to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, between 2011 and 2014, 26 percent of people held in detainment centers by ICE were subsequently found to be U.S. citizens. Considering that ICE is getting it wrong at such a high percentage by its own acknowledgement, it only makes sense that legitimate citizens are being tossed out of the country when ICE’s mistakes aren’t caught.

To better understand how this trigger-happy deportation affects real people, check out a couple of specific cases:

1. Though Ricardo Garza was born in Mexico, he legally became a U.S. citizen later in life. After an arrest for drunk driving, the police asked ICE to come get Garza. Garza told authorities multiple times that he was a naturalized citizen, but no one bothered to verify his story. He spent 5 weeks in an ICE detention center before an immigration attorney, Eric Puente, was able to get him out.

“Mr. Garza had his social security card and driver’s license on him when he was arrested,” said Puente. “Had ICE done their due diligence and listened to him and… looked at their own records, they should have known he was a citizen.” An attempt on the agency’s part to verify Garza’s claims would have probably settled this issue immediately.

2. One of the more shocking cases that Vice references is the saga of Roberto Dominguez, a man who was detained by immigration agents in 1999. The government encouraged him to say he was born in the Dominican Republic to get him out of detainment more quickly, leaving out the fact that that coerced admission would have him deported to the Dominican Republic where he’d spend the next decade of his life.

Dominguez has a legal American birth certificate, but U.S. officials argue that it could have belonged to someone else originally. The U.S. government acknowledges after all these years that they still haven’t found an alternative individual who they believe the birth certificate could belong to, but Dominguez’s citizenship is still somehow a matter of dispute 17 years later.

The fact that these many mistakes are already occurring makes bold immigration proposals from leaders like Donald Trump even more frightening. Looking at Trump’s plans, the Washington Post theorizes that tens of thousands more U.S. citizens could be profiled and put through this shameful process in the name of rooting out undocumented aliens.

Most white Americans will probably never realize what a privilege it is to not have their citizenship questioned and threatened. It’s clear that, with the U.S.’s current gung-ho approach for finding undocumented immigrants, low-income, Hispanic American citizens are being incorrectly profiled because of the way they look.

As a country, we shouldn’t even be allowed to discuss deporting immigrants in large numbers so long as we have a faulty system in place that already deports thousands of honest-to-gosh U.S. citizens by accident.

Photo Credit: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

98 comments

Jeanne R
Jeanne R11 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R11 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R11 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R11 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R11 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson3 years ago

It is interesting how tough the law has to be enforced against brown people and yet this does not seem to happen among the white immigrants.

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Brian F.
Brian F3 years ago

Mexico had a very tough immigration law until they changed it in 2011, and they didn't accept birthright citizenship. Most countries have much tougher immigration laws than the USA, so I agree these mistakes are terrible, but the law must still be enforced. We will not be able to deport the 12 million illegal aliens here, but that doesn't mean they should get amnesty. The dems are pandering to the Hispanic vote, by circumventing immigration law, to gets Hispanic votes. How low can the dems get.

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Brad H.
Brad H3 years ago

thanks

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Will Rogers
Will Rogers3 years ago

Everyone in America are immigrants except the natives and the blacks, because they didn't voluntarily go there. I wonder how many euro-americans were sent 'back' to Europe? The answer is probably none as they are the only people considered to be above suspicion. Institutional and systemic racism is embedded so deeply that not even having a black leader can stop that hatred.

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