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When Americans are held in immigration detention

Many people in Lancaster County know that there are people held in immigration detention centers for allegedly violating immigration laws. Many of these people will eventually face deportation proceedings and could be removed from the country. Though they may be returning to the countries of their citizenship, they may be leaving their familes, all of their friends and nearly everything in their lives behind.

What is shocking, however, is that sometimes it is not just immigrants who are detained, but also American citizens.

It is relatively uncommon, but sometimes American citizens are also held in detention centers because officials with Immigration and Customs Enforcement are convinced that the person is not an American. It is unknown why some officials refuse to believe detainees when they say they are citizens, but internal policies say that if a detainee claims he or she is a citizen, ICE must make an "immediate and careful investigation and analysis."

According to a 33-year-old woman who was held for 208 days by ICE, officers failed to follow their own guidelines when she told them she was an American citizen. The woman was held outside of Pennsylvania, but that doesn't mean that her story couldn't happen here. It is utterly possible for immigration officials here to make the same horrible mistake.

Nine days after her eventual release, she received a Certificate of Citizenship from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The certificate confirms what she had said all along, that she naturalized as an American citizen 18 years ago.

Source: Courthouse News Service, “ICE Locks Up U.S. Citizen for Seven Months,” Rebekah Kearn, Oct. 22, 2013

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