Civil Rights Groups Sue ICE for Unlawful Arrest and Detention of U.S. Citizen

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LOS ANGELES —Civil rights groups in California sued U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for the unlawful arrest of Brian Bukle, a Black resident of Riverside County who has lived in the United States since he was a toddler and has been a U.S. citizen for over 50 years. The lawsuit, filed on November 22, 2021 by Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus, the ACLU Foundation of Northern California, and the law firm Sidley Austin LLP, alleges that Mr. Bukle was deprived of his constitutional rights when the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) reported him to ICE for deportation based on false information that he was a non-citizen. ICE ignored Mr. Bukle’s pleas and refused to investigate his claim to U.S. citizenship, detaining him for over a month during a COVID-19 outbreak until an immigration attorney intervened.

“ICE and CDCR didn’t care about me or my life,” said Brian Bukle. “After I served my sentence I thought I would be going home to see my son for Father’s Day. Instead, I came this close to being deported and losing everything, a nightmare that has stayed with me to this day. CDCR and ICE continually abuse Black and immigrant families whether or not we are U.S. citizens.”

“ICE has continually flouted its internal policies and constitutional obligations to avoid arresting U.S. citizens, resulting in Mr. Bukle and others like him being detained in dangerous and life-threatening conditions for weeks or months at a time,” said Vasudha Talla, Immigrants’ Rights Program Director at the ACLU of Northern California.

“It’s time for California to stop collaborating with ICE, which has proven time and time again that it has no regard for the humanity of the people it detains, whether immigrants or citizens,” said Jenny Zhao, senior staff attorney at Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus. “Governor Newsom and the legislature need to step up and stop ICE transfers once and for all with the VISION Act.”

The entanglement between ICE and CDCR spawned the Vision Act (AB 937 – Carrillo) that will resume moving through the legislative process in January and aims to end the collaboration between these agencies.

Black immigrants are significantly more likely to be targeted for deportation. Seven percent of non-citizens in the U.S. are Black, but according to Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), they make up a full 20% of those facing deportation on criminal grounds. Black immigrants are treated disproportionately harshly by ICE–they are six times more likely to be sent to solitary confinement. In addition, Haitian immigrants pay much higher bonds than other immigrants in detention.

Last month, two dozen California lawmakers sent a letter urging the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to terminate its contracts with three ICE detention centers in California, citing horrendous conditions and continued illegal violations. Earlier this year, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus, the ACLU Foundation of Northern California, and the law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP filed a class-action lawsuit against ICE for using G4S, a private contractor with a history of abuse and misconduct, to arrest immigrant community members when they are released from state prison in violation of federal law.

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