If you’re Latino, or even just ‘look’ or ‘sounds’ Latino, you might want to carry a passport with you at all times (boldface mine):
A Gunnison man born in Colorado was picked up by immigration officers after a court appearance and illegally detained in immigration detention centers across the state for days, according to two newly-filed federal lawsuits.
Bernardo Medina, 22, is Hispanic and was born in Montrose in May 1994. He and his parents moved to Mexico before his first birthday, which is where he spent much of his early life. But Medina moved back to the Western Slope when he was 18, settling in Gunnison.
On Jan. 27, 2015, he went to the Gunnison County Court for a sentencing hearing on a DUI guilty plea. Afterward, he was approached by two men later identified as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. When they asked who he was, he produced his Colorado ID showing he was indeed Bernardo Medina….
Richmond says it’s still unclear if the agents at the courthouse that day came specifically looking for Medina or someone else. But he says his client “had no idea” what they wanted from him, an American citizen, and agreed to come with them to an immigration facility in Alamosa because he “wanted to be helpful,” Richmond says.
The lawsuit says that the agents searched Medina without his permission and without a warrant before he agreed to go to Alamosa, and that he only went after the agents agreed they would return him to Gunnison after questioning him.
That never happened.
Richmond says that ICE and the Department of Homeland Security tried to pin complaints on him while he was in the Alamosa facility that he was in the country illegally, alleging he was lying about his citizenship and that he was actually a Mexican citizen.
“You don’t look like you were born in Montrose,” one of the agents told him, according to one of the suits. Richmond says his client was profiled on the basis of his race and ethnicity, writing that the statement was “a clear allusion to [Medina’s] Hispanic appearance.”
Eventually, according to the suit, Medina was told that he would have to pay a $12,000 ICE bond to be let out of custody because agents didn’t believe he was American.
That evening, ICE agents transported Medina to another immigration detention center in Colorado Springs, where he continued to tell agents he was American – pleas that fell on deaf ears, according to the suit.
“Not only was he insisting to every person who would listen that he was a U.S. citizen, his family was also on the outside trying to talk with any ICE official that would talk with them to show his birth certificate,” Richmond said.
And on Jan. 29 of that year, he was again transferred – this time to the ICE facility in Aurora operated by the GEO Group.
Medina continued his pleas to agents at that facility, as his family worked with immigration groups to try and secure his release. Richmond says agents at the Aurora facility continued to deny Medina’s claims about his American citizenship.
The suit says that finally on Jan. 30 of that year the guards at the Aurora facility “somehow figured out that tremendous error had been made in abducting an American citizen.”
As it turns out, the facility had finally received a copy of his birth certificate from an immigration rights advocate, according to Richmond.
Was it the long-form birth certificate? Of course, they did everything to assist a wrongfully-detained U.S. citizen once they realized their mistake, right?
…they released him from custody into Aurora without letting him call any friends or family, with a dead cell phone and less than $5 in his pocket, according to the suits.
Not knowing where he was and with limited resources, some Good Samaritans found him, fed him and allowed him to get in touch with his family members. His family was able to drive down to Aurora from Gunnison the next day and pick him up.
As always, it’s worth remembering this about our border security forces:
One thing that’s patently clear in even the most precursory study of authoritarianism is that authoritarian regimes rely on ‘petty tyrants’: officials, including very minor ones such as policemen, who abuse their power. This abuse can be ideologically motivated or simply due to ‘power-tripping’ (or, of course, both)….
The problem is similar to that of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Most DEA officials want to stop drug manufacturers. Most are not interested in the social phenomena underlying drug use and distribution here and abroad. They simply want to ‘get the bad guys.’ People who work for ICE and CBP want to stop illegal immigration. As the article notes, while some at DEA are opposed to the Trump policy (something I’ve heard anecdotally as well), most want to ‘stop illegals.’ Some do it because they believe in the legal immigration system and don’t like ‘line cutters.’ Some, like millions of Americans, have disturbing views on Muslims and other minority groups–and they’re not congregating in the National Endowment for the Arts. Some are just very ignorant or not-very-bright people, like millions of Americans (why would one possibly think a 62 year-old French historian would try to sneak into the U.S. illegally? What possible security threat could he be? And whose job would he be stealing?). And, of course, some are power-tripping assholes–as are millions of Americans.
Roll all of that together and you wind up with a lot of people who act like petty tyrants. The problem is that law enforcement, like it or not, is policy…
If Obama had treated U.S. citizens like this, we would have had a dozen hearings. Instead, nothing, thanks to gormless Democrats and awful Republicans.
Seriously, if you think you could be mistaken for an immigrant, you might want to consider carrying a passport with you.