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American citizen recovers $55,000 in wrongful deportation suit

American citizens should be free of any worry about being deported, but apparently, American citizenship is not a complete barrier against ill-advised and illegal deportation proceedings. A resident of San Bernardino who is an American citizen was illegally detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and repeatedly threatened with deportation, even after she insisted on several occasions that she was an American citizen.

The incident began when the woman visited the Ontario Police Department to reclaim her lawfully registered pistol after it had been taken from her car following a traffic accident. The woman was arrested and incarcerated. ICE sent the Sheriff's Office an immigration detainer asking that it hold the woman. After her release, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on her behalf against ICE, the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Office and the state of California.

Even though the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Office maintained that it did not enforce ICE orders, the sheriff's deputies apparently accepted the deportation retainer at face value and did not attempt to verify the plaintiff's citizenship status. After the plaintiff had been detained for several hours, an ICE agent called her daughter, who brought her mother's passport to the sheriff's office. After reviewing the passport, the plaintiff was released from custody. ICE did not comment on the case. After the ACLU filed the lawsuit, the woman agreed to accept $55,000 in damages for the injury caused by the wrongful arrest.

The United States immigration laws are very complex, and, as this case demonstrates, they can be twisted to cause severe legal prejudice to American citizens. It is important that citizens who believe their rights have been infringed upon may want to take the necessary steps to rectify the situation and protect their rights.

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