That’s the phrase the LA Times uses to describe what happened to Pedro Guzman, a 29-year old developmentally disabled construction worker from Lancaster, CA (and American citizen) who was taken from his L.A. County jail cell on May 11 and dumped in Tijuana by the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department. According to a lawsuit brought by the ACLU this week:
the Sheriff’s Department identified him as a non-citizen, obtained his signature for voluntary removal from the United States and turned him over to federal authorities for deportation.
To this day his family doesn’t know where he is or if he is even still alive.
After being arrested for misdemeanor trespassing, Guzman was sentenced to 120 days in Los Angeles County’s Men’s Central Jail, a sentence that he began serving in April. A month later, he called his family from Tijuana telling them he’d been deported and was in Mexico but the call was interrupted before he could tell them exactly where he was.
The ACLU has filed suit against the Department of Homeland Security and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in Los Angeles federal court to demand that the US government help find Guzman.
Up until now, Guzman’s mother has been searching Tijuana on her own without help from either US or Mexican authorities.
While searching for her son in Tijuana, she lived in her car at a banana warehouse owned by a man from her village of Jalcocotan, in the Pacific Coast state of Nayarit. Immigrants from Jalcocotan often use the warehouse as a way station.
Each day, Carbajal said, she would set out through the city’s chaotic streets, asking people about her son, but returning to the warehouse alone each night.
She said she left fliers bearing her son’s image at the morgue, hospitals, cantinas, churches and shelters for poor immigrants.
“I’ve gone places where I know I shouldn’t go. I’ve gone down into the rivers alone,” she said, referring to riverbeds and ravines in Tijuana where people live and sometimes where bodies are dumped. “No one tells me anything. They just say, ‘I don’t know.’ “
So how can this happen in the United States of America in this day and age?
Under a cooperative program by state and local law enforcement, sheriff’s deputies trained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel conduct immigration checks at Los Angeles County jails. The ACLU and immigrant rights groups opposed the program.
“The deputies who interviewed Mr. Guzman are poorly versed in the complexities of immigration law and were bound to make this tragic error,” the suit states. “Additionally, the deputies are pressured to process inmates through the (jail system’s) Inmate Reception Center as quickly as possible with little regard for his rights, because there are so many inmates to process.”
Shorter Sheriff’s Department: “not our fault!”
Steve Whitmore, a Sheriff’s Department spokesman…denied that deputies act as federal immigration agents. He said deputies interview foreign-born jail inmates before their release and turn the information over to the immigration agency.
“ICE makes the decision” on whether a person stays in the country,” he said. “We don’t know how that occurs.”
Shorter ICE: “we did nothing wrong.”
ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said in a statement that the agency partners with the county jail “to ensure that criminals, who are identified as aliens, are screened for removal from the U.S.”
“ICE only processes persons for removal when all available credible evidence suggests the person is an alien. That process was followed here, and ICE has no reason to believe that it improperly removed Pedro Guzman Carbajal,” she said.
Except you f**king deported an American citizen who is lost in Mexico.
The ACLU has confirmed that at the time of booking, Guzman declared that he was born in California but his family says that, in addition to having difficulty reading and writing, he is “unusually prone to the suggestions of others, due to his diminished mental abilities.” The ACLU’s suit also charges that local and federal authorities
failed to identify Guzman’s disability and improperly obtained his signature for deportation from the United States.
Pedro Guzman is the victim of the sort of perfect storm that can develop when you merge the worst of California’s broken prison system with the worst of our broken federal immigration system.
Much credit to the ACLU for getting involved although it never shoulld have taken a lawsuit to get the federal government involved to correct a wrong that their incompetence clearly caused. Hopefully because of the ACLU’s efforts, Mr. Guzman will return safely to his family and this mistake can be avoided in the future.