U.S. Immigration Authorities Allegedly Detained Naturalized Citizen For More Than a Month

A lawsuit filed Monday alleged United States immigration agents detained a man for over a month even though he was a U.S. citizen, The Associated Press reported.

Brian Bukle, 61, filed the suit in federal court along with the ACLU of Northern California and the Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus. It alleges that after Bukle served a prison sentence in California, he was held in the Mesa Verde Detention Facility in Central California for over a month before his citizenship status was verified.

According to The Fresno Bee, Bukle and his brother repeatedly told the immigration agents that he was a naturalized citizen, but their pleas were ignored.

Bukle was born in the British Virgin Islands and received citizenship at the age of nine after his parents became naturalized. He later served a sentence for assault and possession of a firearm before being transferred to ICE upon his release.

The original incident occurred in June 2020, when Bukle was detained by private security guards and transferred to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Civil rights organizations previously sued ICE over this practice in February because non-government agents are not supposed to detain people related to immigration offenses.

Bukle spent 36 days in ICE custody before his citizenship status was revealed, and a federal judge threw out his deportation case.

"After I served my sentence I thought I would be going home to see my son for Father's Day," Bukle, of Corona, California, said in a statement. "Instead, I came this close to being deported and losing everything, a nightmare that has stayed with me to this day."

Before his release from prison, Bukle was reportedly told of the hold ICE had placed on his case, requesting his transfer into their custody upon finishing his sentence. Bukle told California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials multiple times that he was a U.S. citizen, which was reportedly ignored every time he told someone.

For more reporting from The Associated Press, see below.

ACLU, Brian Bulke, Immigration
ACLU ribbons on display at Full Frontal With Samantha Bee's Not The White House Correspondents' Dinner After Party at the W Hotel POV Rooftop on April 29, 2017 in Washington, DC. The ACLU of Northern California is one of the organizations that filed a federal lawsuit over Brian Bukle, an American citizen, being detained by ICE for over a month and risking deportation. Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Immigration and Customs Enforcement declined to discuss pending litigation.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages. It said Bukle remains anxious and depressed and suffers nightmares about being deported.

The suit also raises questions about the reliability of databases used by U.S. officials to determine whether someone can be deported from the country. The databases are especially unreliable for people who derived citizenship through their parents when they were young, the suit said.