When we say American casualties, we are not talking about physical deaths. We are describing some completely and utterly unacceptable happening to American Citizens as a result of the Trump administration’s war on immigration. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is actually detaining and deporting to a foreign land more and more actual US citizens due to immigration errors and our broken immigration system.
One story is that of American citizen, Lorenzo Palma, who moments from being released from completing a five-year sentence in prison for assault was intercepted by immigration authorities. He was then transferred to an ICE detention center where he was awaiting deportation because he could not provide proof of his citizenship from behind bars.
Palma’s could only get his hands on his late grandfather Lazaro Palma’s U.S. birth certificate to help back up his claims of being an American citizen. Apparently, Lorenzo also needed to prove that Lazaro had lived in the country for five years after Lazaro turned 17 in order to validate his own claim of citizenship.
Like many in immigration detention centers Palma’s needed legal assistance to help complete his case. With no chance of a court-appointed attorney because immigration is considered a civil matter which doesn’t offer the same assistance to the less fortunate as a criminal matter would and too poor to hire one himself, Palma’s had no immediate recourse and faced certain deportation. He ended up spending about two years in Immigration detention before he was finally released after he was finally able to prove his US citizenship with the help of a pro bono attorney.
These types of cases and situations are actually much more numerous than one would expect and are becoming more and more frequent as the government continues to crackdown on illegal immigration with little to no oversight.
Extensive research undertaken by Jacqueline Stevens, a political science professor at Northwestern University who directs the school’s deportation Research Clinic shows us that since 2003 tens of thousands of American citizens have been unlawfully deported or detained.
Stevens exposed a record after filing a Freedom of Information Act request showing where US immigration courts had adjourned 256 cases between January 2011 and September 2014 after finding that the presumed “aliens” were actually US citizens.
Top Los Angeles immigration attorney and immigrant advocate, Glenn Fogle, whose had many run ins with the government says Congress is as equally responsible as the immigration authorities who clearly are not being thorough enough to prevent the detention and deportation of thousands of U.S. citizens every year by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
“It is my belief that while establishing someone’s citizenship can be a complex process and immigration officials have probably the worst backlog of such cases to work through under less than pleasant conditions and pressure, it is equally as important to notice the inherent lack of checks and balances in the ICE deportation machine.”
He continued, “In the U.S. we have years of imprisoning and/or sentencing our own fellow citizens to life abroad which in many cases results to homelessness and a destitute way of living that could have been avoided with Congress finally passing a comprehensive immigration legislation. Instead we are left to dealing with policy and executive orders that create more problems rather than solutions and further obscure our chances of delivering a fair and just immigration system to our citizens and residents.”
Although illegally detained American citizen Lorenzo Palma ultimately received pro bono help to secure his release, many, many others are indigent and continue to fall through the cracks of our broken immigration system with no happy ending in sight. We the people must echo Glenn Fogle’s question to Congress, “Is the hurt and pain brought against our own people not a cause for Congress to act now?”