The Knuckleheads of the Day award
Today's winners are the Arlington(Texas) police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement aka ICE. They get the award for jailing a US born citizen and accountant, Alicia Rodruiguez, because they believed her to be an illegal alien. Ms. Rodruiguez was held by authorities for less than a day before being released.
I am not opposed to deporting illegals, the trouble as we've seen with Pedro Guzman, and now with this near miss, is how many legal residents and even US citizens will get screwed in the process. Even when the mess is cleared up, people are left in financial difficulty from fighting with the government. Click here and here for examples. It isn't a level playing field for US citizens whose rights are in danger.
A driver's license and even social security card don't prove anything unless authorities check them out. Which police in the story below, didn't do right away. Nor did they check Ms. Rodruiguez's fingerprints against those of the illegal with the same name. Ms. Rodruiguez has the right to be furious, for what happened to her is an outrage. She doesn't plan to sue, and authorities have apologized but this insanity scares me for I have three family members(wife, Mother-in-law, Sister-in-law) all in the US legally and citizens today and I fear some for them. Maybe I'm paranoid, but the Arlington Texas police and ICE are today's Knuckleheads of the Day.
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A native Texan spent the night in the Arlington Jail, missed her children's first day of school and feared being deported after authorities mistook her for an illegal immigrant.
Alicia Rodriguez, an accountant and mother of three, has the same name and date of birth as a woman deported to Mexico three times.
"I was told I was waiting for an [immigration] officer or Border Patrol officer to interview me and then move me to another location. It was very scary," the Mansfield woman said.
Arlington and federal immigration officials say they made a mistake and apologized.
"This is very unusual," Arlington police spokeswoman Christy Gilfour said "We're not aware of this having happened before. We do realize that this is unfortunate, and we do regret that we made an error."
Gilfour said police overlooked fingerprints that would have shown Rodriguez was not the illegal immigrant.
Rodriguez said she does not plan to sue, but apologies do not make up for what she was put through.
"I think it's ridiculous. I think it was obvious that I wasn't an illegal immigrant," she said.
Rodriguez's case demonstrates the need for a balanced approach between enforcement and immigration reform, said Marisol Perez, an attorney with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund. "We want to uphold the laws of the country, but we want to balance that with individual rights," she said.
Earlier this year, authorities wrongly deported U.S. citizen Pedro Guzman, a developmentally disabled man from California. It took his family three months to find him.
Law enforcement experts say similar situations may happen again as the government creates more databases of names to fight illegal immigration, terrorism and other crimes.
"Part of the dynamic is when you identify the right person, they also say they didn't do it," said Jack McDevitt, associate criminal justice dean at Northeastern University in Boston. "So police are used to running into people who say, 'This isn't me, I didn't do it.'"
Identified as illegal
Arlington police pulled Rodriguez over and arrested her Sunday night after running her license-plate number.
She had warrants from Dalworthington Gardens for having no insurance during a stop in that city and failure to appear in court for the insurance charge.
Rodriguez said the charges are valid, and she was willing to pay a fine and bail to get out of jail.
But when she got to the jail, the Arlington police computer told officers that they had a woman who was in the country illegally.
Gilfour said Rodriguez's name and date of birth matched. The height was off by an inch. The weight was off by 25 pounds, but the information was last updated in 1999.
Police arranged for Rodriguez to have a telephone interview with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Rodriguez said the ICE officer was "very hostile" to her, refusing to believe her when she said she was born in Dallas.
Rodriguez said the person on the other end of line sternly told her that she was speaking to a federal agent and had to answer truthfully or risk committing perjury.
"At the time, I thought someone with my name had committed some horrible crime," Rodriguez said.
ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok said the illegal immigrant Alicia Rodriguez had at least three claims of false citizenship on her record. That record may have led officials to doubt the Alicia Rodriguez they had in custody when she said she was born in Dallas.
In jail overnight
Rodriguez's sister, Deborah Evans, came to the Arlington Jail with cash to pay any fines or bail only to learn that her sister was being held as an illegal immigrant.
"I said, 'What do you mean? She's my sister. We were born here in Texas, in Dallas,'" Evans said. "I was shocked they were telling me this."
Rodriguez spent the night in jail sleeping on a mat on the floor with a cellmate. Another sister stayed with her three children, and her ex-husband took them to school the next day.
On Monday, she was transferred to Dalworthington Gardens Jail, where she had a panic attack when authorities told her immigration officials would come pick her up -- eventually.
"They told me it could take up to two days to move me to the next location which to me just meant it was going to be endless," Rodriguez said. She said police gave her oxygen to calm her hyperventilating.
Evans went to the Dalworthington Gardens Jail, showed officials her sister's birth certificate and tried again to convince officials that her sister was a U.S. citizen.
"I was frightened that she was going to be deported right then" to Mexico, Evans said. "We don't speak Spanish. What was she going to do, and how was I going to get there?"
After trying unsuccessfully to get her sister released, Evans said she left for an appointment.
Dalworthington Gardens Sgt. David Henderson said an officer there discovered Rodriguez had a driver's license and Social Security number. Dalworthington Gardens officials eventually started working for her release, Rodriguez said.
They finally let her out at about 3 p.m. Monday.