Lawsuit Alleges California Prisons Target Foreign-Born Inmates

by Joshua Brown
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In California, the government sometimes treats inmates as if they are from a foreign country even when they are actually citizens or have a legal right to live in the U.S. In some cases, people were wrongly held for weeks after their sentences finished, according to a lawsuit filed in state court on Thursday.

The American Civil Liberties Foundation of Northern California filed a lawsuit because they say some inmates, who were born outside the U.S., don’t get to join rehabilitation programs. Lawyers representing those in jail and people who used to be in jail said that California’s policies unfairly pick out immigrants and refugees based on where they were born, their skin color, or other similar things.

Hundreds of people, even those born in the United States, are reported to ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) by officials every year for possible deportation according to a court case. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has said that they’re looking into it.

Brian Bukle was taken away by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) in June 2020, even though it says he’s a US citizen in the corrections records. He had to be without his son on Father’s Day, and only got released after an immigration lawyer helped out.

Anouthinh “Choy” Pangthong, who is a U.S. citizen born in a refugee camp, was incorrectly flagged by corrections officials with the intention of sending him to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency). Without an attorney’s help, he had to endure nearly 19 years of fear of being deported from his own country where he belongs to. The complaint has been filed against those officials.

Pangthong said that he was almost willing to stay in state custody just so he wouldn’t be taken away from his family and home. He also said that being deported would mean losing the people whom he loves and his life which was rooted in his home state.

An official complaint has been filed stating that a government agency’s rules tell staff to report people who were born outside the U.S. to federal immigration officers for deportation, even though some of these people may actually be official citizens or permanent residents who aren’t allowed to be sent away.

A lawsuit was filed in Alameda County which included examples of inmates who could not access re-entry and rehabilitative programs due to them being identified as foreigners. Note that Brian Bukle is not part of this lawsuit.

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