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U.S. Citizen Files Lawsuit Against ICE Over Unlawful 36 Day Detention

Brian Bukle who became a naturalized citizen at the age of 9 and lived in the United States as a lawful U.S. citizen for over 50 years was detained by ICE authorities after his release from prison.

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    Lawsuit Against ICE

    Brian Bukle, age 61, recently filed a lawsuit along with the ACLU of Northern California and the Asian Americans Advancing Justice (Asian Law Caucus) against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for the unlawful arrest and detention of a U.S. citizen. Bukle spent 36 days at the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Facility in Bakersfield, California in June 2020 during a COVID-19 outbreak. He was released from custody after a federal immigration judge dismissed his deportation case after he was acknowledged to be a U.S. citizen.

    Brian Bukle, who resides in Corona, California, was born in the British Virgin Islands and became a U.S. citizen at the age of 9 years old when his parents became naturalized U.S. citizens. After serving a prison sentence for assault and possession of a firearm, Bukle was then immediately transferred into the custody of ICE after his release despite his numerous attempts by both himself and his brother to inform authorities that he is a United States citizen.

    Bukle is suing for unspecified damages. The list of offenses in the lawsuit includes false arrest and imprisonment, malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligence.

    Brian Bukle maintains that he still suffers from emotional distress and nightmares caused by unlawful detention during the pandemic. According to Bukle, his release from prison was meant to be a happy occasion. “After I served my sentence I thought I would be going home to see my son for Father’s Day,” said Bukle. “Instead, I came this close to being deported and losing everything, a nightmare that has stayed with me to this day.”


    Illegal Arrests By ICE

    When Bukle was released from prison in June 2020, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) officials immediately transferred him into the custody of ICE via the use of two private security guards hired by ICE who picked him up and transported him to the ICE processing facility.
    The use of private security guards constitutes as illegal transfer by ICE as federal law prohibits the use of private security guards to make immigration arrests. Civil rights organizations have previously sued ICE over the use of non-government agents being given the power to detain individuals over immigration offenses.

    Despite numerous attempts by Bukle to inform both CDCR officials and ICE agents that he was a U.S. citizen and therefore not subject to deportation, Bukle was still taken into custody where he spent 36 days in immigration detention.

    To end transfers to ICE altogether, California Legislature will consider passing Assembly Bill 931, also known as the Vision Act, in its next session in 2022. This bill will prohibit CDCR officials from transferring those who have been recently released from prison into the immediate custody of ICE.

    Further Training Need for ICE

    Sadly, cases like Bukle’s are all too common. According to a July 2021 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), “ICE does not know the extent to which its officers are taking enforcement actions against individuals who could be U.S. citizens”.

    Furthermore, the report stated a need for ICE to better train its officers, especially in regard to verifying the citizenship of individuals who are detained. Officers are required to keep a record when ICE verifies citizenship but is not required to update that record after identifying evidence that may prove that an individual is a U.S. citizen

    According to ICE’s own data used in the GAO report, the agency arrested 674 potential U.S. citizens, detained 121 potential citizens, and deported 70 potential U.S. citizens from 2015 to early 2020.

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