Sometimes U.S. Citizens Are Detained on Immigration Violations


If you needed another reason to not support draconian immigration laws, perhaps the occasional horror story about U.S. citizens being detained as illegal immigrants would help?

The New York Times has a story of several American citizens (as well as a dual U.S./ Spain citizen, but that's clearly a suspicious, Spanish-speaking country) who were detained and then flagged as illegal immigrants, thanks to lousy Department of Homeland Security (DHS) records. One man, who was arrested for apparent accidental shoplifting, was previously deported to Mexico. His DHS file mentioned this, but not the fact that the original deportation was a mistake.  

As to why those charged with defending the homeland from terrorists and other harmful thing can't tell the difference between who is a citizen of this country and who isn't, well:

Unlike the federal criminal databases administered by the F.B.I., Homeland Security records include all immigration transactions, not just violations. An immigrant who has always maintained legal status, including those who naturalized to become American citizens, can still trigger a fingerprint match.

According to Margaret Stock, an immigration lawyer in Alaska, under the nation's complex citizenship laws, many foreign-born people become Americans automatically, through American parents or adoption. Often their citizenship is not recorded in Homeland Security databases, Ms. Stock said.

As to how often this happen to U.S. citizens, the article offers this:

Exact numbers of Americans erroneously held by immigration authorities are hard to come by, since they are not systematically recorded. In one study, 82 people who were held for deportation from 2006 to 2008 at two immigration detention centers in Arizona, for periods as long as a year, were freed after immigration judges determined that they were American citizens.

The rest here.

Reason on the U.S.'s broken immigration system. 

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  1. *sigh* Do you want the terrorists to win? They can 1) infiltrate our society by coming across the border with illegals, and 2) undermine our economy by driving decent, god-fearing unionized white folk out of their good, high-paying jobs and undercutting our economy with cheap labor.

    Omlette, eggs, etc.

  2. Yes government sucks, but
    82/300,000,000 = 0.000000273

    I’m more likely to win Megabucks.

    1. So I guess it just sucks for those who get illegally deported? Like false convictions, right?

      1. Sure it sucks. I’m shocked the number is that low given the relative incompetence of government in general and “Homeland Security” in particular.

        It probably shouldn’t take “immigration judges” a year to figure it out.

        I would also think that at least 1 of the 216,000 Dept. of Homeland Security employees would know how to update a database.

        1. I would also think that at least 1 of the 216,000 Dept. of Homeland Security employees would know how to update a database.

          They would if there were any accountability. But since there isn’t, who cares?

          1. I really enjoyed the games you made in the early 90’s.

          2. In my time doing government work I found more problems when there was accountability. “Don’t volunteer for anything,” “don’t pick up anything that’s not yours,” and “don’t help anyone with their job” were the mottos to live by.

            “Update a national database? That’s not in my job description, sir.”

        2. Consider that the 82 number appears to be generated by the same people who have managed to screw up the database.

      2. Of course it sucks.

        Something sucking for that tiny a percentage of the population is not a reason to give up and open the borders as Ms Steigerwald suggests. Particularly when, you know, fixing the databases could solve this problem.

        To continue with your analogy about false convictions, few people advocate getting rid of all criminal laws because of them. But that is exactly the analogue of what Ms Steigerwald is advocating.

    2. That’s just out of two detainment facilities in Arizona in a two year window. And on top of that, 82 isn’t the number falsely held, its the number of people held for more than a year and then released.

      Multiply that accordingly for every facility in every state and include people held for less time and released as well as those who are still being held and the number will increase.

      Reading comprehension fail!

      1. it says “for periods as long as a year,” suggesting that some in that 82 were held less than a year. But you’re right that the 82 were only at the two detention centers from 2006 to 2008.

        1. Was that a Joe’z Law?

  3. Eggs, omelets, rinse, repeat.

  4. as well as a duel U.S./ Spain citizen

    Was he looking for a six-fingered man?

    1. Clearly all duel citizens should be detained due to the dangers of dueling. Dual citizens, maybe not.

  5. Imagine how awesome it’s going to be after Ron Paul abolished birthright citizenship!

    You’ll have to prove that your perhaps long-dead parents were citizens when you were born!

    1. I don’t believe president Paul will have enough votes in congress to repeal the 14th amendment.
      Despite what the last two presidents like you to believe the president does not have absolute power.

        1. Will’s reasoning is sound. Those who wrote and passed the 14th Amendment put “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” in as a more “catch-all” term than “not subject to a foreign power.” But pinhead courts interpreted that phrase differently — or ignored it altogether — and so we have birthright citizenship. It’s a mistake that can be undone without a new Amendment.

          On the other hand, Mr. Will kept his reason on a very short leash. He points out that, prior to the 14th Amendment, there was no concept — at least no federal concept — of “illegal alien.” Before the Federal government was created, States handled their own immigration. The Constitution did not remove from them that power, or confer it on the Federal government. Rather, it gave the power to ensure that naturalization laws were uniform throughout the nation, naturalization being a very different thing from immigration. Other pinhead courts located the power of immigration in the Federal government, through legal handwaving: Immigration authority and the ability to enforce borders were said to be “inherently” national powers, which didn’t NEED to be in the Constitution in order to exist. And of course, because they WERE national powers, only the Federal government were competent to exercise them. This is crap reasoning, but it has fooled a lot of people for many years, probably because to admit the mistake would run contrary to the popular desire to close the borders and reject “the other.”

          Along with most Americans, Will does not question Federal immigration authority. But to be intellectually honest, he should. The 10th Amendment is clear: Any power not granted to the Federal government, nor prohibited to the States, remains with the States or the people. Immigration control counts as one of those. The Federal government can control the border, insofar as it can defend us from “invasion.” But peaceful, amicable migration? That is for the States to manage, if anyone.

  6. Sorry, Ms. Steigerwald, but Cheech Marin cracked this story way back in 1987.

    1. Quite a funny movie actually. A bit of a broadside on immigration, but thankfully one I mostly agreed with. Daniel Stern is actually quite good as a corrupt, but somehow likable in a way, profiteer south of the border.

    2. “Born in East L.A.” was a great movie, and don’t forget Paul Rodriguez’s turn.

  7. I swear, if some DHS goon ever attempts to deport my daughter, an American citizen born abroad, I’ll…I’ll…

    Well, let’s just say what would happen would make what Timmy McV did look like a love-tap.

    [Disclaimer: The preceeding was satrical, i.e. the use of ridicule to scorn evil and folly.]

    1. The preceeding was satrical…

      We’ll be the judge of that.

    2. So how many children of government employees do you plan to kill?

      1. So how many children of government employees do you plan to kill?

        Just enough to get enough experience points for the next level.

  8. Am I the only one who thinks the chick pictured in the article is hot?

  9. When I was growing up I always wanted to be a detective, and Reason’s immigration stories definitely allow me to exercise my PI skillz. There’s always a bit of bullshit or spin somewhere in there. That “apparent accidental shoplifting” is pretty suspicious, so I’ll RTFA and report back.

    1. After his young daughter begged for a $10 bottle of cologne, Mr. Montejano said, he inadvertently dropped it into a bag of things he had already bought. As he left the store, he was arrested.

      LOL. That story stinks to high heaven (maybe needs better cologne).

    2. The source of the 82 figure speaks:

      “Because of the scale of enforcement, the numbers of people who are interacting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement are just enormous right now,” said Jacqueline Stevens, the study’s author and a political science professor at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.


      But Ms. Stevens cautioned: “It’s sort of like the canary in the mine. If those who have the full due process rights of U.S. citizens are being detained, it tells us a lot about potentially unlawful people who do not have those protections.”


      No agenda there, right?


    To a great extent the mainstream Liberal media appear traumatized by the old traditional issue, that there are only TWO foremost alternatives of what to do with the officially estimated number of 11 million illegal aliens (a disinfected figure.) This is for those persons who are residing without permission in this sovereign nation; either deporting them or allowing a Path to citizenship.

    Nowhere is this counterfeit proposal more perceptible than in the media conduct of Mitt Romney’s immigration proposal. It is substantially obvious to the American person, which in essence smells of Amnesty. No presidential contender has debated more about the particulars of dealing with the 11 million populations than Romney. He has told the numerous audiences of what his opposition to amnesty is, for aliens and what he suggests to do with them?

    The problem for the Liberal media against Mitt Romney is that he maintains a third preference that is generally known as “ATTRITION THROUGH ENFORCEMENT”, which doesn’t include anything like mass deportation and legalization. It’s a easy program giving access to a government website, that illuminates whether you can be hired or not and official directions what to do if you are flagged. The application also costs absolutely nothing to arrange, with its outcome–once going at full steam–is self-deportation that also cost nothing to taxpayers. However, the national press turns a blind eye, which has everything to do with removing illegal aliens from the workplace. God forbid that–Romney should receive any credit for his innovation that purely conveys his values, to difficult for most established Republican Members of Congress (and Democrats). But the Texas Governor should at least get a merit badge for having that position. Then we have Michele Bachmann, THE TRUE TEA PARTY CHAIRMAN. Bachmann needs to gain more momentum by establishing her stand more on the illegal immigration occupation.

    Bachmann of Minnesota needs to press her opposition against Obama’s Department of IN-justice, as there ugly treatment of Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Utah and soon North Carolina who are concerned by foreign national parasites, leeching the welfare assistance in those states; yet excluding not suing California, Nevada, Colorado, New York and others, who have declared their cities sanctuaries for illegal aliens and still receiving federal funds. In addition Bachmann should cite a second bill that has 80 sponsors is H.R.140, titled the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2011, which was introduced by Rep. Steve King of Iowa, which will establish that babies smuggled into our nation, for the sole purpose of illegal parents to take advantage of the taxpayers. From the time of entry the parent can collect public entitlement, using the child as a pivot to remain here. Benefits will accumulate over many years of health care, education and further welfare supplements. If you cut off the billions of dollars in welfare and cash payments to ‘foothold children’, millions of illegal migrants and immigrants will leave, knowing there will be no more?FREE HANDOUTS.

    Lady Bachmann has the highest grade of B-, determined by the pro-sovereignty group NumbersUSA, then followed on her heels by Romney who is graded at C-. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has dropped to a D-, after adopting that illegal alien solution, for those who have settled here for at least twenty five years and should receive a pardon, although not eligible for citizenship. One must wonder how Gingrich is going to construe who arrived here 25 years previous, or even ten years ago. For starters–how did they get a job, if the federal government was carrying out enforcement? Then again to get a job, they had to hand over a Social Security number to be hired. In other words they made up a SSN, and used fraudulent documents. So isn’t that a?FELONY?

    This is why the House must pass the ‘Legal Workforce Act’ or better recognized as E-Verify. This is why Americans must come together and press the federal, State Representatives to co-sponsor Bill H.R. 2885. This is the only avenue left to control unauthorized workers stealing jobs from lawful American workers and legal residents, as nothing has been seriously done since the Simpson-Mazzoli bill inception in 1986. That is why the numbers of illegal aliens have been climbing ever since and too the majority of Americans, well past 20 million.

    I was surprised that two Democrats have now co-sponsored the “Legal Workforce Act’, which is generating enormous support from the American people. It’s the taxpayer voters, who are contacting their Representatives in the House and Senate, determined not to be ushered to the side lines and demanding the E-Verify law. Thousands are calling 202-224-3121 to be directed to their federal and state political members and having a nationwide impact. Why not make your vote known by doing your civic duty in demonstrating that illegal aliens must go home. Can you even imagine what the hundred billion dollars plus that is going to subsidize illegal immigrants, can financial assist your states funds?

    Don’t be fooled by the Democrats and Liberal Progressives that illegal alien do pay their fair share in taxes. Those who do are insignificant, and use the IRS ITIN number and receive $4.6 Billion dollars back in tax credits.

    The Department of Justice director Liberal Eric Holder as implicated in the ‘Gun-walking’ scheme, known as ‘Fast and Furious’ and the death of Brian Terry, a US Border Patrol agent killed by the American government incompetence. The man is now the driving force to use his power against states that have enacted laws to stop non-citizens voting in our elections. Remember the fraudulent canvassing group ‘ACORN’ as they are back on the map, assuming another name and having been prosecuted in 11 states. In conclusion the Liberal Progressives who are evidently pushed ‘POLITICAL CORRECTNESS’ are at it again, trying to force us to retire the term ‘Illegal alien.’ This is not going over well with the TEA PARTY, that if you stole into America which is a violation of the law, and then you are a?ILLEGAL ALIEN. Not an undocumented worker. THAT’S WHY ILLEGAL ENTRY SHOULD BE RECOGNIZED AS A FELONY. YOU CAME HERE WITH THE DELIBERATE INTENTION OF STAYING, WITH A VISA OR NO VISA. I recommend all Americans who came here legally, need to associate themselves with the TEA PARTY. America is on the rails to very unstable future and the only hope for us is the TEA PARTY. Find out facts of the corruption and lies steering us in the wrong direction and read investigations at Judicial Watch, which will open your eyes to rot that is tangible in Congress.

  11. I was born in East L.A.

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