Two civil rights groups Monday sued U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on behalf of a Riverside County man who allegedly was unlawfully transferred to an ICE immigration lockup for deportation proceedings even though he is a citizen.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus and the ACLU Foundation of Northern California filed the federal lawsuit in Los Angeles on behalf of Brian Bukle, 62, of Corona.
The lawsuit alleges that California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials handed Bukle over to ICE on June 17, 2020, at a time when immigration detention centers were in the midst of a coronavirus outbreak. The transfer took place just as Bukle expected to be released from state prison after completing a five-year term for assault, his attorney said.
Bukle spent over four weeks at an ICE facility in Bakersfield before the agency acknowledged he was a U.S. citizen and his deportation case was tossed, according to the lawsuit.
An ICE spokeswoman said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.
“ICE and CDCR didn’t care about me or my life,” Bukle said in a statement released by his lawyers. “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 harm Black and immigrant families whether or not we are U.S. citizens.”
The complaint — seeking unspecified damages — alleges false arrest and imprisonment, malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence.
The civil rights groups allege that transferring people to ICE detention violates the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, and that state officials’ coordination with ICE in other ways — such as permitting an ICE private contractor to arrest people at state facilities, and accepting ICE detainers based on error-ridden databases — violates state and federal law.
Bukle was the subject of an ICE detainer based on information from the agency’s electronic databases, which are “notoriously riddled with errors,” according to ACLU NorCal.
Attorneys for the civil rights groups contend that after Bukle was transferred to the Mesa Verde Detention Facility, an immigration judge and detention facility staff urged him to sign paperwork consenting to his deportation, despite the fact that he is a U.S. citizen and has made a home and raised a family in this country.
After 36 days, ICE released him, acknowledging that he should not have been in immigration detention, according to the lawsuit.
“ICE has continually flouted its obligations under the Constitution and internal policies 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 NorCal.