U.S. Citizen Wrongfully Detained in Immigration Mix-up

Grand Prairie, TX- A Texas man, who was born in Mexico but later became a U.S. citizen, along with several other immigrants, filed a federal lawsuit alleging he was wrongfully detained in Texas last fall at the request of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Last October, police in the Grand Prairie, Texas arrested 42-year-old Ricardo Garza for driving while intoxicated, according to the Texas Tribune. He paid bail and was about get out when police  began to question him, eventually asking him: “Where were you born?” The answer to that question would lead to prolonged incarceration for Garza.

Since Garza as born in Mexico, the Grand Prairie PD notified ICE, who then issued an immigration detainer for Garza. The agency alleged that although Garza was a legal permanent resident, his charge was a deportable offense and Garza spent the next 36 days in jail, even though he should have been out on bail.

The Department of Homeland Security asks local law enforcement agencies to honor these detainers and hold individuals they suspect of being undocumented or deportable for at least 48 hours. Garza spent far longer than that in the Dallas County Jail and was only released after his immigration lawyer was able to provide proof of his citizenship.

Now Garza and several others filed a federal lawsuit alleging the Dallas County violated their Constitutional rights by holding them on immigration detainers until their cases are resolved and not allowing them to post bail. Garza’s attorney, Eric Puente, says the 36-days his client spent in amounted to pretrial detention.

Unfortunately, Garza’s case is not that unusual and highlights the complexity of determining U.S. citizenship. According to the Texas Tribune, in a four-year period ICE issued 834 detainers against U.S. citizens, which is why you see Garza’s lawsuit and others like it across the country.

A spokesperson for Dallas County would not comment on the lawsuit but told the Texas Tribune that it is policy to comply with ICE detainers and to keep individuals until their cases are determined.

Garza’s prolonged detainment is an example of why civil rights groups and immigration advocates object to immigration detainers. It also demonstration inefficiencies in how ICE and local law enforcement agencies handle immigration detainers.

Garza’s case is also an example of why immigrants, whether they are undocumented or in the U.S. legally, need to retain an immigration attorney as soon as they are arrested or encounter any issues with ICE. An immigration lawyer will use their skills and experience to ensure you aren’t being detained when you should be. They can work to prove your immigration status and provide you with a deportation defense.

Many things can affect legal immigration status and lead to your removal including something minor like a mistake on an immigration application or something major like a felony criminal charge. That is why you will benefit from having a lawyer on your side. Let USAttorneys help you find an immigration lawyer near your Texas location who can help you obtain a visa, a green card or legal permanent residency.