Every year, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) deports thousands of people who do not meet the necessary requirements to stay in the US.
In 2014, the ICE removed 315,943 people who were either trying to enter the US illegally or were already in the US.
According to its own rules, deportation officers needed to obtain travel documents so each of these deportees could return to their home countries.
However, a new report by a family-advocacy group claims ICE resorted to using a number of fake identification papers in order to deport some people.
The report, by the Families for Freedom advocacy group based in New York, lays out four stories of people who were allegedly deported without valid papers or without any papers at all; the report suggests these aren’t isolated incidents.
Al Jazeera reports that Sarah Maxwell, an ICE spokeswoman, said in an email that the agency never knowingly deported someone without valid identification papers.
There are several reasons why it’s problematic to deport people without incorrect ID or without any ID at all. For one thing, they can get arrested for illegally entering the country they’re being deported to. Without proper ID, they could also have a hard time finding work, accessing social services, or getting medical assistance.
In one particularly bizarre incident, ICE allegedly tried to deport a man named Noah to Cameroon even though the man had no connection to the country and had never even been there. The report said ICE managed to obtain bogus travel documents to get him to Cameroon through a Texas minister named Charles Greene, who claimed to be an “honorary consul” to the country.
- Getty Images/John Moore
The head of Families for Freedom, Abraham Paulos, has been urging the government to take action to prevent people from being deported without proper documentation.
“[W]hat makes this piece of paper important is not the information that it presents, but rather the liberty that is gained or lost with or without its possession,” Paulos said in the report. “To us, a travel document is much more than a piece of paper. It is the weight that determines our freedom or imprisonment, health or harm, family unity or separation, or injustice and rights.”
The report recommends that foreign embassies ensure that the ICE is “honoring and not circumventing official letters and communications regarding travel documents.” The report also urges the Office of Inspector General to audit how ICE officers obtain travel documents as well as “investigate and publicize any cases of people that are deported without travel documents.”
This is the full statement from the ICE as a response to the report:
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that prioritizes the removal of criminal aliens, recent border crossers and egregious immigration law violators, such as those who have been previously removed from the United States.
ICE takes very seriously the health, safety and welfare of those in our care. The agency is committed to ensuring that individuals in our custody receive timely and appropriate medical treatment. ICE’s detention standards are designed to provide onsite and remote access to quality medical health care for all detainees.
ICE’s detention authority is not punitive. The agency can only detain or monitor an individual in furtherance of their immigration proceedings. ICE has neither the authority nor the resources to detain subjects indefinitely. This applies specifically in cases where it is determined that there is no significant likelihood of removal in the reasonably foreseeable future, except in very limited scenarios that require a judge’s order deeming the subject “specially dangerous” (per the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Zadvydas v. Davis).