It doesn’t matter if you are talking about criminal defense, immigration or a car accident — in any potentially criminal situation, the expectation is that police officers will act in a dignified and respectful manner so that the case can be properly and efficiently handled. A lack of this conduct can lead to a violation of due process, which can result in a dismissed case or dropped charges.
For a 20-year-old woman, the relentless, over-the-top approach to her interrogation by a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officer coerced her to renounce her legitimate U.S. citizenship, leaving her stranded in Mexico.
Born in Weslaco, Texas, the woman was berated and interrogated for seven hours before reluctantly (and falsely) signing a statement that said she was not a U.S. citizen. Her driver’s license and birth certificate were confiscated by the officer, who left her in a border town in Mexico.
Such a traumatic and horrifying ordeal for the woman may take years to overcome. She has petitioned a federal judge to reinstate her U.S. citizenship, but it could take a while to earn a court date just to overturn the false statement that declares the woman is not a citizen.
There are two major sticking points from this story: the first is that this isn’t the only time immigration enforcement has acted in an egregious manner that obstructs a person’s civil rights.
There have been incidents where people are wrongfully held for hours on end — without food, water or access to an attorney — as they are berated and interrogated. It is a massive breach of conduct, let alone illegal, and until there are positive reforms in the way our immigration laws are enforced, this deplorable situation (and others like it) will continue to happen.
The other important element of this story is the value of U.S citizenship – not necessarily applying for citizenship or attaining it, both of which are important. No, it’s the fact that this young woman has been stripped of her ability to effectively combat the violation of her civil rights because she is no longer considered a citizen.
To immigration officials, she is just another name in the endless field of illegal immigrant casework. Presumably lost in a border town with nowhere to go, the woman likely has few resources to make an appropriate appeal.
Source: Associated Press, “Texas Woman Barred From U.S. After She Denied Citizenship,” June 4, 2012