Friday, April 12, 2024

U.S. Citizen Wrongfully Deported for Not Speaking English

Houston native Luis Alberto Delgado returned to the United States over the weekend after an 85-day expulsion from the country after he was wrongfully deported by immigration officials in June.

Delgado, 19-yrs-old, was detained by U.S. Border Patrol agents during a traffic stop in South Texas on June 17 and questioned for eight hours over his citizenship.  Even after presenting a birth certificate showing he was born at a Houston area hospital, social security card and a Texas identification card, the immigration agents still pressured the teenager to sign papers that sent him to Mexico.

Delgado says the immigration agents did not believe he was a U.S. citizen even after he presented all the proper documentation because of his lack of fluency in English.  He says the actions surrounding his case are “an injustice” and is considering a lawsuit against the U.S. government.

“I believe (the agents) discriminated against me because I didn’t speak English,” Delgado said. “If you don’t speak very well, I think they just assume you’re Mexican.”

Delgado says he does not speak English well because he has only been living in the U.S. for three years and was raised in Mexico.  His mother moved the family to Mexico after divorcing his father who lives in Dallas.  The agents accused him of carrying papers that belonged to someone else.

A spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Steven Cribby, declined to comment on Delgado’s case.

Houston immigration attorney, Isaias Torres, has taken Delgado’s case pro bono.  Torres says he believes the U.S. government was “at best, very negligent” in its handling of the case.

This is not the first time a U.S. citizen has been wrongfully deported, but the exact number remains unknown since such statistics are not officially tracked by U.S. immigration officials.  In 2007, there was a high-profile case involving a mentally disabled Los Angeles man who was lost for months in Mexico after being wrongfully deported.

“I don’t believe this is an isolated incident,” Torres said.

The immigration lawyer says such cases will become increasingly common because the U.S. government is deporting parents with U.S.-born children.   According to a 2009 Department of Homeland Security report, between 1998 and 2007, the United States removed 108,434 undocumented immigrants with U.S. born children.

Torres says the government should not tolerate discrimination against U.S. citizens and legal immigrants who do not speak English fluently.

Houston Chronicle