American Citizens Are Getting Locked Up and Even Deported by Immigration Authorities

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On November 5, 2011 a 40 year old man was holiday shopping with his children at a Los Angeles mall and unintentionally dropped a bottle of cologne that his daughter begged him for, into a bag of items he had already purchased. Upon leaving the store, he was arrested by security guards for shoplifting. The man spent two additional days in jail on suspicion of being an undocumented immigrant. The man pleaded with officers about his citizenship, presenting them with his driver’s license and other legal documentation, but they wouldn’t budge. The man believes his detention was a direct result of his ethnicity.

In prior years, immigration authorities failed to recognize his citizenship and prompted his wrongful deportation. The American Civil Liberties union (ACLU) discovered that his records had never been corrected, which is why his arrest led to a positive match in the Department of Homeland (DHS) database.

“Secure Communities” is the latest of these controversial programs, introduced and piloted by the Bush Administration. The program has expanded drastically under president Obama and it plans to expand its reach to all US jurisdictions by 2013. The program requires local jails to cross check fingerprints of jailed individuals with Homeland Security’s immigration database. If a positive match is found, Federal Immigration officials can issue detainers that authorize local law enforcement to hold the suspect in custody for up to 48 hours.

However, the DHS database is riddled with flaws, as demonstrated by the growing number of US citizens being wrongfully tagged. The Homeland Security’s records include all immigration transactions, not just violations. An immigrant, who has always maintained legal status, including those naturalized to become American Citizens, can still trigger a fingerprint match. According to Jacqueline Stevens, a political science professor over 4,000 US Citizens were detained or deported in 2010 alone and since 2003 well over 20,000 have been detained or deported.

Title: Why Are American Citizens Getting Locked Up and Even Deported By Immigration Authorities?

Source: Alternet, December 28, 2011

Author: Rania Khalek,


Student Name: Brenda Montanez, Sonoma State University

Evaluator: Damien Sandoval, Napa Valley College