U.S. Citizen and Army Veteran Spends Nine Months in Detention

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

  • NWIRP (Press Release)

For Immediate Release
Contact: Jorge L. Baron 206.957.8609

July 21, 2008


NW Immigrant Rights Project says ICE "disingenuous"

Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) today debunked claims by the Northwest regional office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that the government has not detained U.S. citizens at the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) in Tacoma.

"It is disingenuous for ICE to deny that U.S. citizens have been held at the detention center when ICE officials clearly know otherwise," said Jorge L. Barón, executive director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.

"NWIRP has provided local ICE officials with the case numbers of the individuals involved so they can verify their own records and corroborate the fact that at least fourteen United States citizens have been detained at the Northwest Detention Center since 2005.

"Seven of these individuals were detained in 2008, and ICE was seeking to deport them in violation of their constitutional rights. Some were held for a few weeks while others were held for several months. Two people were ordered deported by an immigration judge before their citizenship claims were vindicated during their appeals.

Last week, Lorie Dankers, ICE's regional public affairs officer appeared on the "Dave Ross Show" on KIRO 710 AM and responded to claims that U.S. citizens had been held at the detention center: "We do not hold U.S. citizens," she stated. " . . . if you are a U.S. citizen, you will be released and you will be released immediately."

"That's a lie," was the response of Rennison Castillo, a NWIRP client who is a United States citizen and U.S. Army veteran detained by ICE at the detention center for nine months in 2005 and 2006.

"When I was detained, I was shocked and felt betrayed that, after serving in the military, I was placed in that position. ICE officers did not listen to me when I told them repeatedly that I was a U.S. citizen and had served in the Army at Fort Lewis. They were disrespectful and told me that I would say anything to get out of detention. It was a nightmare."

"Ms. Dankers' statement is simply not correct," said Jorge L. Barón, executive director of NWIRP.

Barón noted that Mr. Castillo had volunteered to come forward and speak openly about his case and about the months he endured in detention at NWDC.

Barón described Mr. Castillo's case as follows:

Rennison Castillo was born in Belize. He came to the United States when he was six years old and later became a lawful permanent resident of the United States. In 1996, Mr. Castillo enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving for a period of seven years, before being honorably discharged in 2003. During his military service, Mr. Castillo decided that he wanted to become a U.S. citizen, so he applied for citizenship, completed all of the requirements and was sworn in as a United States citizen in October 1998.

In November 2005, Mr. Castillo was detained by ICE and brought to the Northwest Detention Center. ICE claimed that Mr. Castillo was in the country illegally and began deportation proceedings against him.

Like other immigration detainees faced with deportation, Mr. Castillo was not entitled to a court-appointed attorney, and he could not afford to hire a private attorney. Mr. Castillo eventually appeared before an immigration judge in December 2005 and January 2006. During his hearings, Mr. Castillo repeatedly explained that he was a naturalized United States citizen and that he had served in the U.S. Army from 1996 until 2003. He testified that he had been stationed at Fort Lewis and in Korea and had the rank of specialist. Mr. Castillo explained that he had filed the naturalization applications himself and had been sworn in at the INS office in Seattle. Despite Mr. Castillo's testimony, the immigration judge ordered Mr. Castillo deported to Belize.

Mr. Castillo sought assistance from a NWIRP attorneys. Andrea Crumpler agreed to assist Mr. Castillo on his appeal. Ms. Crumpler contacted military authorities, who provided documents corroborating Mr. Castillo's honorable service in the U.S. Army. Despite this evidence, the ICE attorney handling the case did not move to dismiss the case and continued to pursue Mr. Castillo's deportation. Fortunately, the Board of Immigration Appeals determined that the new evidence merited a new hearing on Mr. Castillo's case and sent the case back to the immigration court. In July 2006, after Mr. Castillo had spent nearly nine months in detention, ICE finally acknowledged its error and released Mr. Castillo.

"The cases of U.S. citizens like Mr. Castillo who have been detained by ICE highlight the issues faced by all detainees at the Northwest Detention Center," said Barón. "Even if an individual has a valid claim to remain in the United States legally, being placed in detention makes it much more difficult to obtain legal representation or to secure the documentation to validate one's case."

ICE's Dankers appeared on the "Dave Ross Show" following the release of a report last week by Seattle University School of Law International Human Rights Clinic and OneAmerica titled "Voices From Detention".

[Note: To obtain documentation regarding Rennison Castillo's case, contact Jorge L. Barón, Executive Director at (206) 957-8609 or]

Northwest Immigrant Rights Project promotes justice for low-income immigrants by pursuing and defending their legal status. We focus on providing direct legal services, supported by our education and public policy work. NWIRP is the only entity in the list of "Free Legal Services" that is given to individuals placed in removal (aka deportation) proceedings in Washington State.