Immigration Law

Amidst claims ICE should do more to ID lawful residents, detained citizen wins $20K award

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Complex U.S. immigration laws and relatively minimal standards for detaining those suspected of violating them cause hundreds of American citizens and thousands of legal residents to be held without appropriate basis, advocates say.

Some of those held don’t even know themselves that they are American citizens, making it difficult for them to assert their rights, reports the Chicago Tribune (reg. req.). Others lack documentation to prove their legal status when questioned by federal agents.

Although Immigration and Customs Enforcement representatives say such issues are present in only a small fraction of cases, advocates want ICE to do more to try to prevent legal residents from being detained.

“When people argue they’re citizens, ICE fights them every single time,” said attorney Lena Graber of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center. “There’s a question about whether that’s the right posture to take.”

Among those who had to fight to avoid being held without basis is Jhon Ocampo. The Springfield, Illinois, resident was arrested and held for a week in 2012 before a lawyer hired by his mother was able to persuade ICE to confirm his citizenship, the newspaper reports.

“I feel like I was targeted,” said Ocampo. “They didn’t care what I said. … They didn’t do a lot investigating what I told them.”

He filed a civil rights suit over the incident, winning a $20,000 award from a federal judge last month.

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