LOS ANGELES - Pedro Guzman, the U.S. citizen illegally deported from a Los Angeles County jail on May 11, was reunited with his family today at a Lancaster courthouse after nearly three months lost in Mexico. It ends a harrowing three-month search by the family while the ACLU of Southern California and the law firm of Van Der Hout, Brigagliano and Nightingale sought in vain for assistance from the U.S. government.
'This has been a horrific experience for Mr. Guzman and his family,' said ACLU/SC legal director Mark Rosenbaum. 'Pedro Guzman is safe today not by the actions or compassion of the government that illegally deported him, but by the love and strength of his family.'
Little is known about Mr. Guzman's time in Mexico. He told his family today that he attempted to cross the border several times but was turned away. He said he walked from Tijuana to Mexicali, a distance of more than 100 miles, and ate out of trash cans as he looked for a way back into the U.S. His family says he was nearly unrecognizable, and that they are seeking immediate medical attention for him.
Border agents detained Mr. Guzman as he attempted to cross into the U.S. near Calexico early Sunday morning. County officials had issued a warrant for his failure to appear at probation hearings, despite attempts by the family and ACLU/SC to explain to probation officials that he had been wrongfully deported. The government had promised to immediately notify the family and their attorneys if it found Mr. Guzman. Instead, it took 36 hours for the family to be notified.
Mr. Guzman spent two days in jail before Superior Court Judge Carlos Chung ordered him released Tuesday morning. Late Monday night, ACLU/SC staff had met with Mr. Guzman at Men's Central Jail and confirmed his identity. This afternoon, Sheriff's Department officials transported him from downtown Los Angeles to the Antelope Valley Courthouse, where he was reunited with his mother, Maria Carbajal.
The family's last contact with Mr. Guzman was May 11, when he called his sister-in-law from a borrowed cell phone to say he had been deported to Tijuana. The call cut off, and Carbajal rushed to Tijuana but was unable to locate him.
Immediately after learning of the case, the ACLU/SC and Van Der Hout, Brigagliano and Nightingale went to federal court on June 11 to seek government assistance in the search.