Immigration security agent

No matter where people stand on the hot-button issue of immigration, the one thing that most can agree on is that the immigration system in this country is in dire need of repair. One problem that many may not even be aware of is that of American citizens being placed in detention facilities or even deported because of confusion about their status.

A U.S. Citizen Spent a Week in Immigration Detention Facilities

A man living in Springfield, Illinois, fell victim to this. He was picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers in 2014 and spent a week in detention facilities before an attorney retained by his mother proved his citizenship to authorities. He sued the federal government and received a settlement.

Much of the problem stemmed from the now-30-year-old man's misunderstanding of his status and the documentation he required. He came to the U.S. as a child from Columbia with his mother. She became a citizen in 2002, so he became a citizen automatically. However, because he had a green card, which indicates non-citizenship, and a criminal record, he got on ICE's radar and was slated for possible deportation. Even though he says he knew he was a citizen and told officers that, the fact that he showed them his green card only complicated the situation.

Why Is This Happening?

Although the instances of U.S. citizens being placed in detention centers or deported are relatively few, it's been estimated that it's happened to thousands of people. Immigration attorneys argue that ICE should do more investigating when someone claims citizenship. An attorney with the National Immigrant Justice Center, who represented the Illinois man, says that the immigration enforcement systems' standards for probable cause in detaining someone aren't strong enough.

ICE said determining a person's citizenship can be difficult because of the complex laws governing legal residency.

Many people in this situation did run afoul of the law. Under a discontinued program called Secure Communities, in place from to 2008 to 2014, local police departments sent ICE fingerprints of people they'd arrested to find out if they could be deported. For someone whose citizenship may not have been well-documented, this can create a problem.

Whenever a person is wrongfully placed in a detention center, it's essential for his or her family to seek legal assistance as soon as possible. No one, U.S. citizen or not, should be deported due to lack of legal representation.