A Jamaican-born man is suing Immigration and Customs Enforcement, alleging that he was held for deportation for three-and-a-half years in Buffalo, New York, even though he is a naturalized U.S. citizen.
Davino Watson says he served an eight-month sentence after pleading guilty in 2007 in a cocaine-sale case, then was transferred to immigration detention under an ICE order, Reuters reports.
His suit, filed last week in federal court in Brooklyn, seeks unspecified damages and says Watson repeatedly insisted that he was a U.S. citizen but was ignored. He finally was released after a federal judge appointed counsel for him.
“We are all at risk if this can happen,” said attorney Mark Flessner of Holland and Knight, who is now representing Watson. “If there isn’t a procedure that allows citizens to be immediately released without any kind of due process, it just points to the broken system.”
An ICE spokesman declined the news agency’s request for comment.
Between 2008 and 2012, a total of 834 U.S. citizens and 28,489 permanent residents were held on mistaken detainer orders, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.
Watson’s lawyers say others generally were held only days or months before mistakes were discovered, and Watson’s detention sets a record.
[As reported in the ABA Journal]