Detainees, Including U.S. Citizens, Report Abuses By Federal Authorities

A national organization of immigration lawyers has raised concerns over congressional testimonies from individuals held by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) authorities.The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), a group of attorneys who advocate on immigration issues, has criticized ICE over allegations that the agency detained U.S. citizens and entered homes without a warrant.

In a February hearing by the U.S. House Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law, a number of witnesses testified regarding ICE abuses, which AILA summarizes:

  Both legal residents and U.S. citizens report having been approached by immigration officials during worksite and residential raids on the basis of their race or ethnicity.

  ICE officials have allegedly entered private homes in some residential raids without a warrant and questioned individuals about their immigration status.

  Mothers responsible for caring for their small children reportedly have been detained and transferred to detention facilities thousands of miles away from their families.

  Detainees have been transferred away from their attorneys in countless cases making it difficult to defend themselves in court.

Marie Justeen Mancha, a 17-year-old U.S. citizen of Mexican descent who lives in Georgia, testified before the panel that ICE officials broke into her home:

I answered all [ICE agent] questions — telling them my momma didn’t need a green card — that she was born in Florida. Finally, I got the courage to ask them why they were in my home. One of the agents just said that they were looking for illegals. They began to walk outside and I heard them telling each other that they should all go to the gas station because they’d find a lot of Mexicans there. I asked if they were leaving and they said they’d be in the area looking for the rest of “them.” I walked outside and they were everywhere. Luckily, they all got in their cars and started to drive off.

Mancha is a plaintiff in a lawsuit against immigration authorities regarding the raid.

At the same hearing, Gary Mead, deputy director of detention and removal operations for ICE, testified that “ICE actively works to ensure any claims of U.S. citizenship are timely adjudicated,” alluding to the Colorado case of Thomas Warziniack, a man of Russian descent who was held by ICE and the Colorado Department of Corrections for a sentence for criminal impersonation and possession of a controlled substance.

Warziniack was detained until he was able to produce documentation showing he was born in Minnesota, although ICE alleges Warziniack told them he was a Russian citizen.

More than a million people have passed through ICE detention facilities in the last four years, according to Mead. One of them is managed by a private prison firm in Aurora, Colo., where corrections company the GEO Group is urging the city to triple the bed spaces in the facility.

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at