||This article needs to be updated. (November 2010)|
Pedro Guzman (also Peter Guzman) is a United States citizen who was erroneously and illegally deported to Mexico by the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) in May 2007. He spent 85 days in Mexico before successfully returning to the United States and his family. He is currently involved in a lawsuit filed on February 27, 2008 against the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and ICE.
Sometime prior to 2008, Guzman was arrested for trespassing in a Lancaster airport, where he attempted to board a private airplane, and was subsequently sentenced to 120 days in a Los Angeles County jail (later reduced to 40 days). During custody, a sheriff's department employee erroneously reported him to the ICE as a non-citizen, despite both departmental records and a statement Guzman made at booking identifying him as a US citizen.
Once transferred to ICE custody, Guzman signed a document agreeing to a voluntary deportation to Mexico. ICE officials claimed that Guzman "repeatedly told ICE officers and Customs and Border Patrol officials and others that he was born in Mexico". He was then transferred to Tijuana, Baja California, and given $3 to survive with. Using a borrowed cell phone, Guzman made a call to his family explaining his deportation, but the call was disconnected.
Guzman then spent nearly three months in Mexico, destitute. He ate out of dumpsters, bathed in rivers, and slept outdoors. In June 2007, while Guzman was still in Mexico, his family filed a lawsuit to attempt to force the US government to aid in their search for him. The suit was unsuccessful and Guzman's mother, Maria Carbajal, proceeded to search for him herself. She traveled to Tijuana and spent several days in the area looking for him, cooking for workers in a banana warehouse in exchange for shelter in a back room there. He tried to cross the US-Mexico border several times, but was turned away each time. Guzman was eventually found near the Calexico, California border crossing in August 2007 and reunited with his family.
Upon his return, Guzman (represented by law firm Morrison & Foerster) filed a separate lawsuit in conjunction with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) alleging racial discrimination and violations of Guzman's constitutional rights. An ICE statement claimed that Guzman's case was "one-of-a-kind". In a House of Representatives subcommittee hearing, Deputy Director Gary E. Mead of the Office of Detention and Removal Operations at ICE said that out of roughly 280,000 people deported in 2007, "only one was a US citizen". The ACLU, however, claimed "ICE lacks even rudimentary safeguards against erroneous determinations." Mead said the ICE is "reviewing its policies and procedures to determine if even greater safeguards can be put in place to prevent the rare instance where this event occurs" and that the process will be completed by May 13, 2008 (90 days from the February 13 hearing).
Guzman "received no assistance from ICE agents -- or anyone else -- in attempting to read or understand" the voluntary release document that he signed. In the United States, detainees held on immigrations violations do not have a 6th Amendment right to counsel.
Guzman has been alleged to be mentally ill and/or developmentally disabled. During custody in LA County, he was given prescription anti-psychotic medications for "hearing voices". He reads and writes at a 2nd-grade level and has trouble remembering information, like his personal phone numbers. Carbajal was quoted as saying, in Spanish, "Sometimes [Guzman] disconnects from reality. He was like that before, but he's worse now."
- "Lawsuit filed for man who was illegally deported to Mexico" LA Wave
- "ACLU sues U.S., county agencies for wrongfully deporting citizen" Mercury News / AP
- "Suit filed over disabled U.S. citizen's deportation ordeal" LA Times
- "Lawsuit filed over man deported and lost in Mexico" Reuters
- "Pedro Guzman Still Missing as Family Seeks His Safe Return" ACLU
- "Deported citizen suing 2 agencies" Sign On San Diego
- "House members grill ICE over Guzman case" OC Register
- "ACLU Demands ICE End Illegal Deportation of U.S. Citizens" ACLU
- "Feds admit mistakenly jailing citizens as illegal immigrants" Houston Chronicle
- "ACLU Files Suit Over Disabled U.S. Citizen's Wrongful Deportation" KPBS
- House of Representatives Subcommittee Hearing on Problems with ICE Interrogation, Detention, and Removal Procedures - includes testimonies of individuals involved in legal situations surrounding Guzman's case.