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Citizen held for deportation for days -- but that's not unusual

There's an old movie called "Born in East L.A." that involves a Latino veteran who is wrongfully deported. He's mistaken for an illegal immigrant from Mexico -- despite the fact that he speaks no Spanish and was born in the United States. Back in the 80s, the film played as a comedy. Now, it could be a documentary.

A decorated Marine and native of Michigan, ended up in the hands of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), about to be deported. It took three days for anybody to realize that he was actually a citizen.

Shocking? Maybe, but that's pretty much "business as usual" in ICE lockups. American citizens with dark skin and Latino names often find themselves threatened with deportation.

In this recent case, the former Marine suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. After a minor incident at a local hospital, he was taken into police custody. He pleaded guilty to a minor trespassing charge and was released by a judge on his own recognizance by a judge. Then, the county police held him until ICE came and picked him up to throw him in a detention center for deportation.

ICE officials swear that the Marine told them he was in the country illegally. Luckily for him, his mother learned what happened when she came to pick him up. It still took a lawyer, three days and a lot of paperwork to secure his freedom.

The thing is, this sort of event isn't actually that rare -- and some American citizens end up in ICE detention centers for months, rather than days. According to government records, at least 1,714 United States citizens have narrowly missed being deported by zealous ICE agents. However, experts estimate that the real figure is closer to 4,000 per year.

In one case, a 69-year-old man native of Texas spent three months in a detention center cell after visiting relatives in Mexico -- despite having his birth certificate, Social Security card and other identifying information on him when he was arrested.

Cases like this show who aggressive ICE has become with immigration enforcement under the current Administration. Frighteningly enough, once a citizen is locked away by ICE, the burden to prove citizenship falls on the accused.

If your loved one is facing deportation despite citizenship, don't assume that the authorities will sort it out. Talk to an attorney who has experience dealing with immigration defense.

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