Wednesday, August 2, 2017

U.S. Citizen Who Was Held By ICE For 3 Years Denied Compensation By Second Circuit


NPR tells a sobering story of a U.S. citizen detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement for more than three years

Davino Watson told the immigration officers that he was a U.S. citizen. He told jail officials that he was a U.S. citizen. He told a judge. He repeated it again and again.  There is no right to a court-appointed attorney in immigration court. Watson, who was 23 and didn't have a high school diploma when he entered ICE custody, didn't have a lawyer of his own. So he hand-wrote a letter to immigration officers, attaching his father's naturalization certificate, and kept repeating his status to anyone who would listen.  

Nonetheless, ICE detained Watson for removal for nearly 3 1/2 years. It released Watson, who was from New York, in rural Alabama with no money and no explanation. Deportation proceedings continued for another year.

In a lawsuit, Davino Watson claimed that he was a United States citizen and was improperly held in immigration detention for more than three years because the government mistakenly believed that he was subject to removal. He sued under the Federal Tort Claims Act in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Weinstein, J.), asserting four claims: (1) false imprisonment, (2) malicious prosecution, (3) negligent investigation into his citizenship status, and (4) negligent failure to issue a certificate of citizenship until years after his release. Judge Jack Weinstein found the government liable to Watson on the false imprisonment claim, dismissed the malicious prosecution claim and negligent investigation claim on motion, and entered judgment for the government on the negligent delay claim post-trial.

Here is the Second Circuit opinion, written by Judge Jacobs, dismissing Watson's claims.  The conclusion is summarized below:

"It is arresting and disturbing that an American citizen was detained for years in immigration proceedings while facing deportation, but Watson's claims for damages are foreclosed by precedent. Watson's false imprisonment claim is untimely, and we reverse the judgment to that extent. We otherwise affirm. Watson's malicious prosecution claim fails because no government official acted with malice; his negligent investigation claim fails because there is no analogous tort under New York law, as required by the FTCA; and his claim that the government negligently delayed delivery of his certificate of citizenship fails because Watson did not suffer cognizable damages.

In sum, we reverse the judgment of the district court on the false imprisonment claim, affirm the judgment in all other respects, and dismiss as moot Watson's appeal from the limitation on damages for false imprisonment."


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