The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Linda Paris or Matt Allee (202) 675-2312 
Teresa Borden (213) 977-5242


ACLU Applauds Senators Menendez and Kennedy for Bill to Protect U.S. Citizens from Unlawful Detention and Deportation

Long-awaited legislation establishes due process standards for immigration detention, raids and deportation


Last night, Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA) introduced
legislation to protect U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents from being
unlawfully detained and deported by the Department of Homeland Security
(DHS). In the wake of sweeping immigration raids that have devastated
communities across the country, the ACLU welcomes this bill, S.3594, The Protect
Citizens and Residents from Unlawful Raids and Detention Act, as the first
legislation to require DHS to follow due process standards in executing
immigration raids.

"The Protect
Citizens and Residents from Unlawful Raids and Detention Act is long overdue,"
said Joanne Lin, ACLU Legislative Counsel. In recent years, immigration
detention and deportation rates have grown exponentially: last year over
300,000 people were deported and over 30,000 people held in immigration
detention daily. DHS's immigration enforcement actions have been so
sweeping and untargeted that they have ensnared U.S. citizens. Hundreds of
U.S. citizens have been unlawfully detained by DHS, and at least one U.S.
citizen was illegally deported to Mexico, a country he had never lived
in. According to Lin, "These gross due process violations have occurred
because there are no controls or regulations governing DHS's conduct. This
bill is a necessary antidote to DHS's unchecked and unconstitutional immigration
enforcement powers."

The ACLU has sued DHS for illegal detaining and deporting people including U.S.
citizens. One ACLU client, Pedro Guzman, a U.S. citizen born in California,
was deported to Mexico in 2007. After he was deported, Mr. Guzman was
forced to live on the streets, to bathe in rivers and to eat out of trash bins
for several months before he was allowed to reenter his home country, the
U.S. The ACLU of Southern California and the law firm of Morrison &
Foerster have brought a damages action against DHS on behalf of Mr. Guzman and
his mother.

"Local jail
officials and federal immigration officers deported the undeportable, a United
States citizen, based on appearance, prejudice and reckless failure to apply
fair legal procedures," said ACLU of Southern California Legal Director Mark
Rosenbaum, an attorney for Pedro Guzman and his mother. "Local law enforcement officials should do the jobs they're
trained for, not enforce complicated federal immigration laws. We don't
use local officials to audit IRS returns or conduct foreign wars; that's why we
have a federal government. The same applies to enforcement of immigration

In another
lawsuit, the ACLU, National Immigration Law Center and the National Lawyers'
Guild sued DHS for systematically denying access to counsel to workers swept up
in an immigration raid. In February 2008, ICE agents descended on the premises of a
printer supply company in Van Nuys, California, temporarily shutting down
operations. The ACLU and other lawyers offered to represent all the
arrested workers, but ICE refused to let the workers consult with immigration
attorneys, both at the worksite and later at the local ICE field office in the
days following the raid. Some of the workers who tried to assert their
right to counsel were intimidated by ICE agents into making incriminating

The ACLU, NILC and NLG had no choice but to sue DHS for
violating the workers' right to consult with immigration counsel. In March
2008, DHS settled the case and allowed immigration attorneys to sit in on the
workers' interviews with ICE officers. The workers were represented by
Ahilan Arulanantham, director of immigrants' rights and national security at the
ACLU of Southern California. According to Mr.
Arulanantham, "ICE enforcement actions repeatedly violated the Constitution and
federal law in this case. U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents and
others living in this country are entitled to a federal government that follows
the law and due process."

These ACLU lawsuits highlight the urgent need for
Congress to pass legislation that curbs ICE's unconstitutional raids, detention
and deportation practices. To this end, this legislation would do the

  • Create due process
    protections, such as notification of immigration charges and access to counsel
    and phones, during immigration enforcement efforts;
  • Require DHS to
    implement regulations to ensure that immigration detainees are treated
  • Promote
    "alternatives to detention" programs that are more humane and cost-effective
    than traditional penal-style detention;
  • Establish an ICE
    ombudsman to investigate complaints and to create DHS accountability; and
  • Provide labor
    protections to ensure that ICE worksite raids do not undermine labor or
    employment law investigations.

The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

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