Some good comments on this article so I'm including them:

Top Story Immigration officials detaining, deporting American citizens
By Marisa Taylor | McClatchy Newspapers
Posted on Thursday, January 24, 2008

FLORENCE, Ariz. — Thomas Warziniack was born in Minnesota and grew up in Georgia, but immigration authorities pronounced him an illegal immigrant from Russia.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has held Warziniack for weeks in an Arizona detention facility with the aim of deporting him to a country he's never seen. His jailers shrugged off Warziniack's claims that he was an American citizen, even though they could have retrieved his Minnesota birth certificate in minutes and even though a Colorado court had concluded that he was a U.S. citizen a year before it shipped him to Arizona.

On Thursday, Warziniack was told he would be released. Immigration authorities were finally able to verify his citizenship.

"The immigration agents told me they never make mistakes," Warziniack said in a phone interview from jail. "All I know is that somebody dropped the ball."

The story of how immigration officials decided that a small-town drifter with a Southern accent was an illegal Russian immigrant illustrates how the federal government mistakenly detains and sometimes deports American citizens.

U.S. citizens who are mistakenly jailed by immigration authorities can get caught up in a nightmarish bureaucratic tangle in which they're simply not believed.

An unpublished study by the Vera Institute of Justice, a New York nonprofit organization, in 2006 identified 125 people in immigration detention centers across the nation who immigration lawyers believed had valid U.S. citizenship claims.

Vera initially focused on six facilities where most of the cases surfaced. The organization later broadened its analysis to 12 sites and plans to track the outcome of all cases involving citizens.

Nina Siulc, the lead researcher, said she thinks that many more American citizens probably are being erroneously detained or deported every year because her assessment looked at only a small number of those in custody. Each year, about 280,000 people are held on immigration violations at 15 federal detention centers and more than 400 state and local contract facilities nationwide.

Unlike suspects charged in criminal courts, detainees accused of immigration violations don't have a right to an attorney, and three-quarters of them represent themselves. Less affluent or resourceful U.S. citizens who are detained must try to maneuver on their own through a complicated system.

"It becomes your word against the government's, even when you know and insist that you're a U.S. citizen," Siulc said. "Your word doesn't always count, and the government doesn't always investigate fully."

Officials with ICE, the federal agency that oversees deportations, maintain that such cases are isolated because agents are required to obtain sufficient evidence that someone is an illegal immigrant before making an arrest. However, they don't track the number of U.S. citizens who are detained or deported.

"We don't want to detain or deport U.S. citizens," said Ernestine Fobbs, an ICE spokeswoman. "It's just not something we do."

While immigration advocates agree that the agents generally release detainees before deportation in clear-cut cases, they said that ICE sometimes ignores valid assertions of citizenship in the rush to ship out more illegal immigrants.

Proving citizenship is especially difficult for the poor, mentally ill, disabled or anyone who has trouble getting a copy of his or her birth certificate while behind bars.

Pedro Guzman, a mentally disabled U.S. citizen who was born in Los Angeles, was serving a 120-day sentence for trespassing last year when he was shipped off to Mexico. Guzman was found three months later trying to return home. Although federal government attorneys have acknowledged that Guzman was a citizen, ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said Thursday that her agency still questions the validity of his birth certificate.

Last March, ICE agents in San Francisco detained Kebin Reyes, a 6-year-old boy who was born in the U.S., for 10 hours after his father was picked up in a sweep. His father says he wasn't permitted to call relatives who could care for his son, although ICE denies turning down the request.

The number of U.S. citizens who are swept up in the immigration system is a small fraction of the number of illegal immigrants who are deported, but in the last several years immigration lawyers report seeing more detainees who turn out to be U.S. citizens.

The attorneys said the chances of mistakes are growing as immigration agents step up sweeps in the country and state and local prisons with less experience in immigration matters screen more criminals on behalf of ICE.

ICE's Fobbs said agents move as quickly as possible to check stories of people who claim they're American citizens. But she said that many of the cases involve complex legal arguments, such as whether U.S. citizenship is derived from parents, which an immigration judge has to sort out.

"We have to be careful we don't release the wrong person," she said.

In Warziniack's case, ICE officials appear to have been oblivious to signs that they'd made a serious mistake.

After he was arrested in Colorado on a minor drug charge, Warziniack told probation officials there wild stories about being shot seven times, stabbed twice and bombed four times as a Russian army colonel in Afghanistan, according to court records. He also insisted that he swam ashore to America from a Soviet submarine.

Court officials were skeptical. Not only did his story seem preposterous, but the longtime heroin addict also had a Southern accent and didn't speak Russian.

Colorado court officials quickly determined his true identity in a national crime database: He was a Minnesota-born man who grew up in Georgia. Before Warziniack was sentenced to prison on the drug charge, his probation officer surmised in a report that he could be mentally ill.

Although it took only minutes for McClatchy to confirm with Minnesota officials that a birth certificate under Warziniack's name and birth date was on file, Colorado prison officials notified federal authorities that Warziniack was a foreign-born prisoner.

McClatchy also was able to track down Warziniack's three half-sisters. Even though they hadn't seen him in almost 20 years, his sisters were willing to vouch for him.

One of them, Missy Dolle, called the detention center repeatedly, until officials there stopped returning her calls. Her brother's attorney told her that a detainee in Warziniack's situation often has to wait weeks for results, even if he or she gets a copy of a U.S. birth certificate.

Warziniack, meanwhile, waited impatiently for an opportunity to prove his case. After he contacted the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, a group that provides legal advice to immigrants, a local attorney recently agreed to represent him for free.

Dolle and her husband, Keith, a retired sheriff's deputy in Mecklenburg County, N.C., flew to Arizona from their Charlotte home to attend her brother's hearing before an immigration judge.

Before she left, she e-mailed Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. After someone from his office contacted ICE, immigration officials promised to release Warziniack if they got a birth certificate.

After scrambling to get a power of attorney to obtain their brother's birth certificate, the sisters succeeded in getting a copy the day before the hearing.

On Thursday, however, government lawyers told an immigration judge during a deportation hearing that they needed a week to verify the authenticity of Warziniack's birth record. The judge delayed his ruling.

"I still can't believe this is happening in America," Dolle said.

Warziniack began to weep when he saw his sister. "They still don't believe me," he said.

Later that day, however, ICE officials changed their minds and said that he could be released this week. They said they were able to confirm his birth certificate, but they didn't acknowledge any problem with the handling of the case.

The officials blamed conflicting information for the mix-up.

"The burden of proof is on the individual to show they're legally entitled to be in the United States," said ICE spokeswoman Kice.

Warziniack, 40, told McClatchy that he has no memory of telling anyone he was Russian. Instead, he recalled the shock of withdrawing from his heroin addiction after 18 years of drug abuse.

Katherine Sanguinetti, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Corrections, suspects that prison officials were relying on information that Warziniack gave when he was first taken into custody because they never received the Colorado court documents concluding that he was a U.S. citizen.

Even now, the prison records inaccurately show his current location as "the Soviet Union."

In the end, Sanguinetti said, ICE is responsible for making sure that it detains and deports the correct person. Her prisons flag hundreds of prisoners a month as foreign-born, but can't possibly verify the information, she said.

"Could it happen again? Sure," Sanguinetti said. "But we would hope that ICE during their investigative process would discover the truth."

Rachel Rosenbloom, an attorney at the Center for Human Rights and International Justice at Boston College who's identified at least seven U.S. citizens whom ICE has mistakenly deported since 2000, believes that the agency should set up a more formal way of handling detainees when they appear to have valid claims of U.S. citizenship. At the very least, she said, ICE could release people such as Warziniack on bond while waiting for immigration judges to hear the cases.

"It's like finding innocent people on death row," Rosenbloom said. "There may be only a small number of cases, but when you find them you want to do everything in your power to make sure they get out."

(Researcher Tish Wells contributed.)

McClatchy Newspapers 2008
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01:01:00 01/25/2008pacioli
It would certainly be horrible to find yourself in the position of being a U.S. citizen being deported from your own country. However, none of the three cases mentioned in this article give any evidence that the immigration officials have done anything inappropriate in their actions. The examples are a heroin addict that lied about his citizenship, a mentally ill Mexican that was deported because of fake documents and a child born to someone who broke the laws of our nation. Why wouldn't these officials believe someone that stated they were here illegally? If they found Pedro Guzman's birth certificate to be false then what eveidence does the article give that it was not false? The best place for a child is always with its parents. What is wrong with sending a child with it's parents if they are deported, even if the child is a citizen?
The bias of this article is in the factual errors it contains. The title states that U.S. citizens are being deported which the article gives no credible evidence for. This is called yellow journalism and is sensationalist

11:01:57 01/25/2008kcsapps

If you don't think the choice of stories to run is about an agenda, you are the ones with small and closed minds. Its all about making the system the evil one, not the Outlaws.

11:01:08 01/25/2008forachange
Boy, certainly are a lot of hostile comments on this story. Of course those comments wouldn't be so laughable if one of them had anything to do with the actual story. Do you people just react when you see the word "immigration" in a headline? Do you even bother to read the story? Try to comprehend what the story is acually about? There's nothing in there about illegal immigrants. These are US CITIZENS. Don't you even care that your fellow citizens are being held in violation of their constitutional rights? Your fellow Americans are being charged with felonies and denied their Miranda protections. Put your ignorant, racist, xenophobic nativism away and wake up to the very real possibility that this could happen to you. God save America.

10:01:49 01/25/2008juangallegos
Another example of an incredible biased story. Rachel Rosenbloom compares the detention of a lying heroin addict to finding innocent people on death row. Shameful. Marisa Taylor needs to look at the big picture. Last year ICE deported 280,000 people to 175 countries. The Border Patrol deported another 1,000,000 Mexicans back to their home country. Yet, Ms. Taylor focuses on a heroin-addict criminal who initially lied about his place of birth. Then she piles on by talking about a mentally impaired man from Los Angeles who claimed to be Mexican and was found guilty by a criminal court judge. Regarding the San Francisco story, it was well documented in the local papers that ICE kept the boy with his father because the father refused to cooperate. At no time were the child and father placed into "detention."

Maybe "researcher" Tish Wells and Ms. Taylor should write stories about the illegal alien who murdered his girlfriend and then killed himself over the weekend in los Angeles. Maybe they should write about the alien smugglers who murdered the Border Patrol Agent on Saturday in Yuma. Maybe they should write about the vietnamese immigrant, convicted of drug possession, who threw his four children off of a bridge two weeks ago in Mississippi. Maybe they should write about the about how ICE has a thankless job thanks to biased reporters like Ms. Taylor who seek to sensationlize the plights of a few crimiminal illegal aliens or lying citizens in an effort to stigmatize the government in hopes of furthering an open borders agenda.

What's next McClatchy? Are you going to print a story demonizing the Border Patrol because smugglers are resorting to killing agents so that they can continue to bring in poor hard working illegals via their underground railroad????

09:01:58 01/25/2008James_Macdonald
This reminds me of a joke from the old Soviet Union:

One day a bear is walking along when he sees all the animals running out of the forest. He stops a rabbit and asks what's happening.

"Run for your life!" the rabbit says. "The KGB is catching and castrating all the camels!"

"Why should I worry?" says the bear. "I'm not a camel."

"After the KGB has cut off your balls, try to prove it!"

09:01:57 01/25/2008Ryan

As with our prison system, we have to justify the billions spent on the construction of the facilities, so "law enforcement" does what they have to do -- to fill them.

Our National Nightmare.

May it one day ..... be over.

07:01:00 01/25/2008WOLFBOI1970
I don't understand you people attacking the paper for this article??? How are they the "BAD GUYS'? And I didn't read one line dealing with anti-immigration policy...I read an article thats scarry as hell showing that there is a system in place that is seriously broken and MUST be fixed!!! That is a responsible news agency's duty to the public...toexpose the wrong and to help make it right...and falsely imprisioning, falsley accusing, and falsley deporting a US citizen to a foreign land where they know no one and may not even speak the language is a HORRIBLE HORRIBLE thing to do to someone. Yr rspncss nl shw yr gnrnc nd tht y MST b bsh fllwr, bcs ngr nd gnrnc g hnd n hnd wth yr knds.... mr yr fr y ppl...nj th lwlssnss bcs ts gnn nd sn!!! GOOD STORY MCCLATCHY

05:01:00 01/25/2008serena1313
The immigration issue stirred up feelings of racial hatred, fear, bias, prejudice, anger and a host of other e_motions. As a result a lot of mistakes are and have been made. Abusing people will not win hearts and minds. This will come back to haunt us one day.

When the politics of fear become rooted in one's thinking the effects on one's reasoning and logic become noticeable. The more one is consumed by fear the more irrational he or she will become. The politics of fear is a strategy governments have used for generations to gain greater control in which to implement its policies. It is a psychological "war," if you will, being waged against the public. Otherwise what else explains the public's willingness to accept drastic measures taken by the Bush-Cheney administration? None of which prior to 911 would have even been up for discussion!

The US military in Iraq and Afghanistan have tens maybe hundreds of thousands of Afghanis and Iraqis citizens along with American, Australian, British, Canadian etc. citizens imprisoned without recourse or access to the courts. When a government solves problems by simply sweeping-up herds of people and locking them away without question what possible chance does one have to prove who he or she says he/she is whether Iraqi, Afghani, Canadian, British or American?

Something is terribly remiss. But this is the system Bush & Cheney devised and sanctioned: denying prisoners habeas corpus; declaring people guilty until proven innocent; holding unfair tribunal trials; abusing and torturing prisoners to "confess" to crimes they never committed; politicizing the courts and the military all of which have no bearing in American tradition nor law.

Bush may say we do not torture, but his denials do not make it so. Iam not so naive to believe this sort of thing has not happened before, however, certainly this is the first time a US sitting President defends torture. Calling it by any other name: "harsh" interrogations, "alternative" methods, it is still the same; It is torture.

Shredding the Constitution, ignoring the rule of law, misusing their power Bush & Cheney corrupted the checks-and-balances. It will take decades to undo the damage done depending on who we elect that is. They made it easier to completely destroy everything our forefathers fought and died for!

In the interim the Warziniacks languishing in prison have only people like Rosenbloom and others fighting for their rights.

Equally disturbing is that some Americans are so blinded by fear that they think nothing of it when other people's rights are taken away. But what about the day those Americans lose their rights notwithstanding!

It is irrational to believe these policies make us safer; in-fact it is just the opposite.

While we may live in a country called "America" it's not the same country I grew up in. I never imagined this country would change so drastically because we, the people as American citizens, would never allow such things to take place. But I suppose 911 changed that.

'The ones that give up their freedom for security deserve neither! '

05:01:47 01/25/2008donmyers

There's a few I'd like to deport. Can we start at the top?

03:01:58 01/25/2008kcsapps
I think you forgot the ? mark in your headline. Why don't you use your energy doing stories about the crime caused by and social resources that outlaw immigrants drain off are country?? But then, that would not fit into your pro-immigrant policy. The current system is bad, we need to change how we think of Outlaw immigrants, we need to open the border, blah, blah, blah........Anything to push your agenda

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