US Citizen held in detention gets $20,000

A man who was arrested by US Citizenship and Immigration Services in his home and detained for a week despite being a citizen of the United States has been awarded compensation of $20,000 as part of a judgment issued by a central Illinois federal district court judge.

The National Immigration Center’s Heartland Alliance and Kirkland & Ellis LLP pro bono lawyers represented John Erik Ocampo, who was born in Columbia but legally resided in the United States as a permanent resident for many years before gaining US citizenship in 2002 after his mother was also naturalized. Over the course of the following ten years, Ocampo made a number of requests for his citizenship certificate from US Citizenship and Immigration Services but was never sent it.

Ocampo tried to explain this to the USCIS agents that turned up on his doorstep at his home four years ago in 2012 and pointed out that the record of his filing and being a citizen due to the naturalization of his mother would all be in their records but the agents still took him into custody, taking him to two county jails in southern and central Illinois over the course of seven days before ICE’s Chicago Field Office finally got around to reviewing his records, confirming his story and releasing him.

The co-counsel on the case, Mark Fleming, from the NIJC National Litigation Coordinator, says that what happened to Ocampo makes it clear that ICE needs to undertake probably cause hearings before taking people into custody.