LOS ANGELES - Federal immigration officers and the L.A. County Sheriff's Department illegally deported a U.S. citizen last month, the ACLU/SC has learned. He is missing in Mexico, and today the ACLU/SC and the law firm of Van Der Hout, Brigagliano & Nightingale file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court seeking his safe return.
Pedro Guzman, 29, was born in Los Angeles and raised in Lancaster, California. He was serving time at Men's Central Jail for trespassing, a misdemeanor offense, when he was deported to Tijuana May 10 or 11. Mr. Guzman is developmentally disabled, does not read or write English well, and knows no one in Tijuana. He declared at his booking that he was born in California.
He spoke to his sister-in-law by telephone from a shelter in Tijuana within a day of his deportation, but the call was interrupted. Family members traveled to the city in an attempt to find him and have remained there, searching shelters, jails, churches, hospitals, and morgues.
There are no circumstances under which government officials may deport a U.S. citizen. Federal officials have refused requests by family members and a private lawyer to assist in the search for Mr. Guzman.
"This is a recurring nightmare for every person of color of immigrant roots," said ACLU/SC legal director Mark Rosenbaum. "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."
"What has happened to Pedro Guzman is a tragedy," said Stacy Tolchin of Van Der Hout, Brigagliano & Nightingale. "His life may be in danger, and the government must act immediately to locate him and return him to the United States."
Jail and Department of Homeland Security officials failed to identify Mr. Guzman's disability and improperly obtained his signature for deportation from the United States. "The procedures for determination of legal status implemented by Los Angeles County deputy sheriffs '_ fail even minimal criteria for constitutional due process," the lawsuit states.
Sheriff's deputies trained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement conduct immigration checks at L.A. County jails. The ACLU and immigrant-rights groups warned that involving local law enforcement in immigration policing would lead to mistaken deportations and violate the due-process rights of inmates.
Anyone with information about Mr. Guzman can call the ACLU/SC at (213) 977-9500.