A Caribbean national turned naturalized U.S. citizen is suing the U.S. government after he was detained by private security guards, transferred to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement detention, and held for over a month.
Brian Bukle, 61, filed the suit in federal court on Nov. 22, 2021, through the Asian Americans Advancing Justice–Asian Law Caucus, the ACLU Foundation of Northern California, and the law firm Sidley Austin LLP.
The suit alleges that the British Virgin Islands born Bukle was deprived of his constitutional rights when the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) reported him to ICE for deportation based on false information that he was a non-citizen.
The lawsuit says U.S. ICE personnel ignored Bukle’s pleas and refused to investigate his claim of having U.S. citizenship, detaining him for over a month in the Mesa Verde Detention Facility in Central California during a COVID-19 outbreak, until an immigration attorney intervened.
The Caribbean immigrant had served a prison sentence in California for assault and possession of a firearm. Before his release from prison, Bukle was reportedly told of a hold ICE had placed on his case, requesting his transfer into their custody upon finishing his sentence.
Bukle, according to the suit, told California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials multiple times that he was a U.S. citizen, but was reportedly ignored every time he told someone.
Bukle then spent 36 days in ICE custody before his citizenship status was revealed, and a federal judge threw out his deportation case.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages because Bukle remains anxious and depressed, and suffers nightmares about being deported.
“ICE and CDCR didn’t care about me or my life,” said Bukle. “After I served my sentence, I thought I would be going home to see my son for Father’s Day. Instead, I came this close to being deported and losing everything, a nightmare that has stayed with me to this day. CDCR and ICE continually abuse Black and immigrant families, whether or not we are U.S. citizens.”
“ICE has continually flouted its internal policies and constitutional obligations to avoid arresting U.S. citizens, resulting in Mr. Bukle and others like him being detained in dangerous and life-threatening conditions for weeks or months at a time,” said Vasudha Talla, immigrants’ rights program director at the ACLU of Northern California.
“It’s time for California to stop collaborating with ICE, which has proven time and time again that it has no regard for the humanity of the people it detains, whether immigrants or citizens,” said Jenny Zhao, senior staff attorney at Asian
Americans Advancing Justice–Asian Law Caucus. “Governor Newsom and the legislature need to step up and stop ICE transfers once and for all with the VISION Act.”
Black immigrants are significantly more likely to be targeted for deportation. Seven percent of non-citizens in the U.S. are Black, but according to Black Alliance for Just Immigration, they make up a full 20% of those facing deportation on criminal grounds.
Black immigrants are treated disproportionately harshly by ICE––they are six times more likely to be sent to solitary confinement. In addition, Haitian immigrants pay much higher bonds than other immigrants in detention.
More Black immigrants should follow Mr. Bukle’s example!
The writer is publisher of NewsAmericasNow.