ICE Erroneously Holds Detains U.S. Citizen for Three Days

California man wins a $20,000 settlement from the federal government for the erroneous detention. “They’re relying on these databases that are just completely erroneous,” says an American Civil Liberties Union staffer.

For three days last year, immigration officials detained a man who became a U.S. citizen more than 20 years ago despite repeated assertions of his citizenship, the Desert Sun reports. Sergio Carrillo of Rialto, Ca., was born in Mexico and became a citizen in 1994. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials detained him at the Adelanto, Ca., Detention Facility about 40 miles away. How did that happen? Federal immigration authorities had no record of his citizenship in their database — a common problem for people who were naturalized before 2008. says Jennie Pasquarella of the American Civil Liberties Union of California. Authorities later discovered Carrillo’s last name was incorrectly listed in the database as “Cabrillo.”

Carrillo and the ACLU sued the federal government and 10 ICE officers in July; they reached a $20,000 settlement this week. The case highlights several problems with the  immigration system, Pasquarella said. “They’re relying on these databases that are just completely erroneous,” she said. On top of that, immigration officials relied on limited information to make Carrillo’s arrest, she said. They detained him based on evidence of his birth in Mexico and the lack of citizenship information in federal, state or local databases, said a government court filing. “It’s not like the criminal justice system,” Pasquarella said. “There is no double check on the (immigration) system to make sure there’s really a reason for arresting somebody.” Immigration and Customs Enforcement said it “would never knowingly take enforcement action against or detain an individual if there was probative evidence indicating the person was a U.S. citizen. Should such information come to light, the agency will take immediate action to address the matter.”