SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. - Lawyers for a United States citizen who was illegally deported to Mexico are calling for the Obama administration to carefully review immigration procedures to ensure that no U.S. citizen is illegally deported again.
It has been 20 months since Peter Guzman, a U.S. citizen from the Los Angeles area, was illegally deported to Mexico - setting off a frantic search for him by his mother, Maria Carbajal - and nearly a year since Mr. Guzman and Ms. Carbajal filed a legal action against the federal government and two agents from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE). Yet the government continues to delay justice for Mr. Guzman and his family. Most recently, government lawyers filed a frivolous appeal to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in an unjustified attempt to further delay the case.
"The deportation of a United States citizen is unconscionable and must never happen again," said Jim Brosnahan of Morrison & Foerster, which jointly represents Mr. Guzman and Ms. Carbajal along with the ACLU of Southern California.
Added Mark Rosenbaum, legal director of the ACLU/SC: "The attempt by Bush appointees at the Justice Department to evade discovery through this appeal is a clear attempt to sandbag the new administration into defending the policies of the last eight years of treating skin color as a proxy for illegal immigration status -- even, as here, in the case of U.S. citizens."
Mr. Guzman was born in the United States and has lived his entire life in the Los Angeles area. He attended school in Lancaster, California, where he now lives. Mr. Guzman suffers from cognitive impairments that limit his ability to perform certain functions, like reading or recalling basic information like his telephone number. Even so, Mr. Guzman worked in the construction industry and lived with his mother, Ms. Carbajal.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and ICE chose to ignore substantial evidence of Mr. Guzman's U.S. citizenship, including documents in their possession and Mr. Guzman's own statements, and instead wrongly insisted that Mr. Guzman was not a U.S. citizen. ICE illegally and unjustifiably deported him from his country of birth on May 11, 2007. Mr. Guzman, who was entirely unfamiliar with Mexico, wandered lost in that country for more than 85 days.
Ms. Carbajal desperately searched Tijuana and the surrounding areas for her lost son. She searched shelters, churches, jails, hospitals, alleys, beaches, canals and even Tijuana's morgue. During the nearly three months Mr. Guzman was missing, Ms. Carbajal lived in constant fear for her son's life. The U.S. government offered no assistance to Mr. Guzman's family during their search, and ICE has never apologized to Mr. Guzman or their family for these horrific acts.
The dawning of a new administration should bring about a renewed commitment to the protection of the civil rights and civil liberties of United States citizens, Brosnahan and Rosenbaum said.