Many Latinos in the US know of someone who has been wrongly deported. I remember an ex-boyfriend telling me his own deportation story when in the late 1970s in Texas, he was essentially snatched off the street by the INS and dumped al otro lado, despite repeatedly telling the agents that he was born in Los Angeles, California. He was only a small child, and fortunately, he was able to connect with some family members to bring him home within a day’s time. He was lucky.
With the hyped up nationalism, border hysteria, and the continued connotation of Latinos with undocumented immigrants, it should come as no surprise that ICE improperly removed Pedro Guzman, a US citizen, from the L.A. County Jail System. One would think that when they process an inmate that they run their identification number in the system or determine both a DOB and a place of birth just to make sure that they have the “right person.” And I would also think that the bureaucrats would be extra careful with Mr. Guzman since he is developmentally disabled. Mr. Guzman has been missing since May 11, and his family members have taken great lengths to look for him. They discovered that he had been deported after he called them from Tijuana indicating that he was confused and unsure why he was taken there.
The ACLU is taking this case and has criticized the feds for using racial profiling. I often wonder what the criteria is for determining whether someone is illegal. People should carry some sort of identification at all times, but if you only have a drivers license or some other picture ID that does not indicate your citizenship status, how exactly do you prove that you have a right to be in the US? Also, I assume that if you are jailed, you aren’t going to have any documents on you. It seems Mr. Guzman was taken for a ride simply because he was the same color as many of the other immigrants. Deported for being brown.
I sometimes contemplate what the experience of recent immigrants, both undocumented and documented, would be like if they rode around in nicer cars, dressed in nicer threads, and basically tried to blend in a little better because the criteria for determining one’s status doesn’t seem to be the same for everyone. Pedro Guzman speaks English, but so do many immigrants who come here for various reasons. Does law enforcement have some sort of illegal immigration radar that the rest of us don’t have? The officials dumped Mr. Guzman without checking his records, which leads me to the believe that they simply lumped him with the other undocumented people because he shared similar physical features. I think that we are going to hear of more instances like this one, and hopefully the ACLU and other civil rights organizations will continue to fight for answers and justice. US citizens come in all colors, as do immigrants, legal or otherwise. I just hope that my family and friends get the memo outlining what an undocumented person looks likes so we can all be aware.