Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Human Rights Groups Condemn ICE Detentions

Human Rights Watch and Partner Organizations Submit Brief Detailing Rights Violations Committed by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement

In an Amici Curiae Brief filed in the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Human Rights Watch and a number of other organizations provide profiles of individual cases that illustrate the unconstitutional nature of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) detention scheme. These detentions can last months or years, and often result in a detainee being placed in an ICE facility thousands of miles away from their families and communities. In many cases, such detainees have a viable claim against removal, yet are forced into the position of choosing between remaining indefinitely detained while pursuing that claim—which may take years—or simply accepting removal to a country with which they may have no meaningful connection or where they have a legitimate fear of persecution and torture.ICE claims that the majority of removal cases are completed in an average of 45 days, and that when detentions run longer than that period, it is typically because the detainee is asserting a claim that is “unlikely to succeed.” However, the Brief offers examples of specific cases where individuals pursuing a legitimate claim have been detained for periods far longer than that. Among others, these examples include individuals who were subjected to prolonged detention due to administrative errors, or who were forced to spend years in locations far from their families despite the eventual success of their claim.
You can read the full brief here.

Excerpts from the brief:

Adil Mohammed endured a year and a half of immigration detention before an immigration judge recognized his U.S. citizenship. A refugee of the Ethiopian civil war, Mr. Mohammed was born in a Sudanese refugee camp and admitted to the U.S. as a refugee in 1982.

The key issue in his case was whether his parents had naturalized as U.S. citizens before Mr. Mohammed’s eighteenth birthday, rendering him a derivative citizen. ICE delayed Mr. Mohammed’s initial proceeding for a year while
translating his birth certificate, finally producing an incorrect translation that placed his birthday eight months earlier than the actual date due to an
erroneous transposition of the month and day. Mr. Mohammed was
finally released when an immigration judge recognized ICE’s translation
error and pronounced him a U.S. citizen.

Samuel Ankrah came to the United States from Ghana as a young childand derived citizenship through the naturalization of his mother.
In 2005, however, he was placed in removal proceedings, and the immigration judge denied his claim for citizenship based on an erroneous interpretation of the Ghanaian law of legitimation. In order to vindicate his client’s citizenship rights, it was necessary for Mr. Ankrah’s attorney to gather letters from a Ghanaian attorney, a report concerning Ghanaian law from the Library of Congress, decisions of the Ghanaian Supreme Court, and a Ghanaian family law treatise. On the basis of this evidence, a district court judge recognized the immigration judge’s error and determined Mr. Ankrah to be a United States citizen. Although detained for two years, Mr. Ankrah was never afforded a hearing to determine if his prolonged detention was justified.

Armando Vergara Ceballos entered the United States legally when he was eight years old and naturalized in 1996. At some point in the subsequent decade, he misplaced his naturalization certificate. Despite his status as a naturalized citizen, Mr. Ceballos is currently in immigration detention while removal proceedings are underway against him on the basis of a robbery conviction. He has repeatedly protested to the immigration judge that he is a U.S. citizen, a fact of which the government should have a clear record. At his third hearing before the immigration judge, the ICE attorney admitted that Mr. Ceballos’s “permanent file is lost.” He has remained in detention for five months while the government attempts to recover the files it has misplaced.

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