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ICE holds US citizen for 7 months, retaliates when she complains

A woman has filed a federal lawsuit against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement claiming they held her in immigration detention for seven months -- and when she sued to get out, they retaliated by senselessly trying to revoke her citizenship certificate.

This is not the first time a U.S. citizen been wrongfully incarcerated by ICE. Most citizens, native or foreign-born, don’t carry proof of citizenship -- our immigration system wasn’t set up to require that. Unfortunately, that means it can be complicated and burdensome to do so, particularly from inside a jail cell.

Yet when the government deprives someone of his or her liberty, the burden is supposed to be on the government to prove criminal activity or an immigration violation to justify it. In this case, the victim claims that ICE not only treated her as an immigrant detainee awaiting deportation but went so far as to retaliate against her when she tried to assert her rights.

When the woman was arrested in May 2011, she even showed ICE evidence clearly indicating she was a likely U.S. citizen, but they did not believe her and she apparently didn’t have her original certificate of citizenship. She was born in the Philippines, became a lawful permanent resident at age 11 when her mother married Navy man, and was naturalized in 1993.

Despite its legal duty to do so, ICE either refused or neglected to follow up on those documents. Instead, it kept her kept her in immigration detention until Nov. 2011.

Nine days after her release, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services finally came through and issued a certificate confirming she was a U.S. citizen, just as she had claimed. She then hired an attorney and sued CE for illegally imprisoning her for 208 days.

ICE, apparently, responded with a second “review” of her citizenship, although there was no legal basis to do so, the lawsuit states. It then filed an administrative action attempting to cancel the citizenship certificate the USCIS had just issued.

Cancellation of the citizenship certificate wouldn’t have any effect on whether she is, in fact, a U.S. citizen, so ICE’s motive for attempting to do so is unclear. The woman claims it was simple retaliation for her lawsuit. That lawsuit still stands, and seeks damages for false imprisonment and for negligent and/or intentional infliction of emotional harm.

Source: Courthouse News Service, “ICE Locks Up U.S. Citizen for Seven Months,” Rebekah Kearn, Oct. 22, 2013

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