NIJC calls for Congress to investigate flawed and unconstitutional program
Today, attorneys for Jordana Vera filed a response to the government’s motion to dismiss in her case, Vera v. Holder, 11-3157, in which the government mistakenly detained Ms. Vera, a DREAM Act eligible student, for nine months and pursued her expedited deportation.
“This case demonstrates a problem we see quite often in the immigration system, in which the government is too readily given the benefit of the doubt in the absence of evidence that individuals they target should be deported,” said Chuck Roth, director of litigation, Heartland Alliance's National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC). “Locking up someone like Ms. Vera for nine months – without cause – and nearly deporting her without any shred of evidence is unjust and, frankly, appalling.”
Ms. Vera was brought to the United States from Argentina when she was 12 years old. In July 2011, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers came to her New Jersey home in search of her brother, but questioned and detained Ms. Vera instead. The government ordered Ms. Vera summarily deported, alleging that she had overstayed an entry under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The VWP requires that individuals waive the right to challenge deportation before being admitted into the United States. Ms. Vera, who was 12 at the time she entered the United States, did not know the details of her entry to the country. Ordered summarily deported from her home, with no chance to argue her case before a judge, Ms. Vera filed an appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Although the government failed to produce any waiver of rights signed by Ms. Vera or her parents, or any evidence showing she had entered under the VWP, the court granted deference to the government and held that Ms. Vera had no rights to challenge removal.
NIJC along with the New York State Youth Leadership Council intervened to demand Ms. Vera’s release and call for a rehearing. The government finally released Ms. Vera from detention on April 11, 2012 and in early May 2012, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) admitted that the grounds on which the government pursued Ms. Vera’s expedited deportation were completely unsubstantiated. DHS reviewed her files and determined that in fact she did not enter under the VWP. Thus, the basis of the government’s argument in prosecuting Ms. Vera at the Third Circuit, a case which it won, was erroneous. The government informed the Third Circuit Court of Appeals that it was canceling the deportation order, and asked the Court to withdraw its decision. ICE has not yet issued any apology in the case.
“The government's failure to produce critical evidence months ago is wrong and violated fundamental due process rights,” said Brian Murray, partner, Jones Day and lead counsel for Ms. Vera. “This case illustrates how lack of governmental accountability undermines the rule of law, and supports our position that the VWP removal provisions are unconstitutional in their entirety. Congress should investigate what happened here, but the only adequate solution is for Congress to repeal this law before the courts strike it down.”
In addition to Mr. Murray, who is appearing as a pro bono NIJC attorney, Ms. Vera is also represented by Peter Davids of Jones Day, Charles Roth and Claudia Valenzuela of NIJC, and attorney Camille Mackler.