Hun­dreds of U.S. Ci­ti­zens Are Be­ing De­tained Il­le­gally – By the U.S.

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A new anal­y­sis shows that the U.S. gov­ern­ment has de­tained more than 260 U.S. ci­ti­zens for weeks up to years, just for as­sert­ing that they are le­gal U.S. ci­ti­zens.

The study was con­ducted by North­west­ern Uni­ver­sity’s De­por­ta­tion Re­search Clinic, based on data fi­nally turned over to the re­searchers there in re­sponse to Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act (FOIA) re­quests.

The U.S. gov­ern­ment or­ga­ni­za­tion do­ing the il­le­gal de­ten­tion was the Immigration and Cus­toms En­force­ment (ICE) ser­vice. The place they held their il­le­gal de­tainees was pri­mar­ily in pri­vate pris­ons con­tracted to by ICE.

Dur­ing the pe­riod cov­ered by the FOIA re­quest, U.S. gov­ern­ment data shows that, be­tween Jan­uary 1, 2011 and June 9, 2017, immigration judges set resched­uled hear­ings for 1,714 cases af­ter those the gov­ern­ment was try­ing to de­port claimed they were U.S. ci­ti­zens. More than 650 of those claims suc­ceeded. De­spite that so-called suc­cess, how­ever, the av­er­age time for the U.S. ci­ti­zens to be de­tained was 180 days.

This is not ex­actly the ‘in­no­cent un­til proven guilty’ plat­i­tude we have all been sold as U.S. ci­ti­zens. Ex­cept – that is pre­cisely the catch. ICE ap­par­ently feels it can op­er­ate above the law since th­ese peo­ple it is de­tain­ing are not proven yet to be U.S. ci­ti­zens.

Worse still, other find­ings also re­vealed how crit­i­cal it ap­peared to be to have a lawyer. 30 per­cent of those who re­sponded claim­ing they were ci­ti­zens man­aged to prove their case and stay in the U.S. Only 17 per­cent of those who did not have le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tion were able to block even­tual de­por­ta­tion.

All this is go­ing on even though it is il­le­gal for ICE to hold U.S. Ci­ti­zens in de­ten­tion. They have no such au­thor­ity. Do­ing so is a di­rect vi­o­la­tion of the de­tainees’ Con­sti­tu­tional Rights.

Jacque­line Stevens, di­rec­tor of the De­por­ta­tion Re­search Clinic and pro­fes­sor of po­lit­i­cal sci­ence in the Weinberg Col­lege of Arts and Sciences (WCAS) at North­west­ern Uni­ver­sity, said about the study that, “The new data show that the de­ten­tion of U.S. ci­ti­zens is not just a pos­si­bil­ity, but a per­sis­tent fact.”

John Mor­ton, the ICE as­sis­tant di­rec­tor in 2013, re­sponded to early in­for­ma­tion com­ing based on Stevens’ re­search by say­ing that the agency had put in place “new safe­guards to pro­tect against the pos­si­bil­ity of a cit­i­zen’s de­tain­ment or re­moval”.

Stevens is clearly skep­ti­cal that enough will have changed to stop the il­le­gal de­ten­tion prac­tice by ICE. She plans to re­lease her anal­y­sis to the pub­lic later this year.

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