ACLU Demands ICE End Illegal Deportation of U.S. Citizens

February 13, 2008 12:00 am

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Cooperating attorney points to ACLU case as example of government wrongdoing that must stop


Washington, DC – The story of Pedro Guzman, a U.S. citizen born and raised in California, was invoked today throughout a hearing examining Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s illegal deportation of United States citizens. James Brosnahan, of Morrison & Foerster, who is representing Guzman alongside the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, testified about the plight of the 30-year-old cognitively impaired American citizen illegally deported to Mexico after he was arrested on misdemeanor charges and sent to Los Angeles County jail.

“The government — whether it be federal or local — lacks any discretion to deport citizens of the United States,” said Brosnahan. “Citizenship is the constitutional birthright of every individual born within our national borders. Surely the first obligation of government is to preserve at any cost the liberty and security of its citizens to remain within their homeland.”

Guzman remained missing in Tijuana, a city he was wholly unfamiliar with and had visited only once, for three months. He survived by begging for food and eating out of trash cans. While his mother took leave from her job at a Jack in the Box to search for him in Tijuana, ICE did not take meaningful steps to correct its mistake or look for him in earnest. Pedro and his family continue to suffer, but ICE has made no efforts to ensure these types of errors are not repeated.

“The illegal deportation of Pedro Guzman was not an innocent mistake made by ICE officials or agents, but rather the predictable consequences of policies, practices and procedures that rely on racial and ethnic stereotypes to presuppose undocumented status,” said Mark Rosenbaum, legal director of the ACLU of Southern California, who represents Guzman. “ICE lacks even rudimentary safeguards against erroneous determinations.”

Guzman was deported because a Department of Homeland Security pilot program tasked lower-level Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department employees with identifying inmates they believe are foreign born and determining their immigration status. They contact ICE if they believed an inmate should be deported; ICE has not exercised meaningful supervision or monitoring of this program. The ACLU demands ICE conduct genuine oversight with built-in protections to prevent U.S. citizens from being deported again.

“The plight of Pedro Guzman is not an isolated story,” said ACLU Legislative Counsel Joanne Lin. “We have heard of dozens of us citizens who have been wrongfully arrested, detained or deported. Why is this happening? Because the Department of Homeland Security is bent on removing people perceived as ‘un-American. But what can be more un-American than the outright denial of due process and fundamental fairness?”

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