HARTFORD (CN) - The United States unlawfully kept a U.S. citizen born in Jamaica in immigration detention for over a year, he claims in Federal Court.
Keito Weston, a resident of New Britain, Conn., says he was born in Jamaica in 1984 and immigrated to the United States in 1996, the same year his father became a naturalized U.S. citizen.
When the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 went into effect on Feb. 27, 2001, Weston "automatically became a U.S. citizen" because of his father's naturalization, according to the federal complaint filed Friday.
Weston notes that binding precedent by the Board of Immigration Appeals also held that he "was 'legitimated' because Jamaica had abolished legal distinctions based on legitimacy in 1976."
Immigration problems arose for Weston in March 2009 after his drug-related arrest in Connecticut. While in pre-trial custody at the Hartford Correctional Center, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent allegedly approached Weston for a meeting where he told him that he was not a citizen "due to a change in the law."
Shortly after this meeting, the Department of Homeland Security lodged an immigration detainer against Weston and filed a Notice to Appear against him in immigration court, the complaint alleges.
Weston claims that the DHS erroneously claimed that he was not a U.S. citizen. None of the field agents who initiated the removal proceedings "complied with the 2008 Policy Directives requiring the Field Office Director to confer with Headquarters prior to issuing a NTA and initiating removal proceedings," the 27-page complaint states.
Weston says that he properly denied the immigration charges DHS brought against him and received parole and a release date on the unrelated drug charge, but the DHS imposed its immigration detainer on him.
"Thus, instead of being granted his liberty, Mr. Weston remained incarcerated in a Connecticut facility for an additional 133 days until DHS unlawfully took him into its own custody," the complaint states.
A few months later, the government sent Weston to Norfolk County Jail in Dedham, Mass., where it held him as an immigration detainee. He says that the experience in Dedham was scarring, as he witnessed a fellow inmate hang himself.
The inmate who hanged himself "was blue and his hand was dangling off a stretcher" after the incident, and Weston "is still haunted by the memory of [that man's] dead body," the complaint alleges.
An immigration judge allegedly terminated removal proceedings against Weston in February 2012, properly applying the law to him as a U.S. citizen. He says that the "DHS did not appeal the IJ's decision, effectively conceding Mr. Weston's Citizenship" and released him later that month.
All total, Weston's total imprisonment lasted 475 days, according to the complaint.
The case claims that "the immigration detainer caused Mr. Weston extreme stress and anxiety due to fears of deportation." It says he "suffered the fear of deportation both while he was incarcerated in Connecticut and during the 342 days he spent in immigration detention."
Weston, who turned 31 last month, also blames the ordeal for recent gray hairs he has grown.
He says he applied to the U.S. government in August 2012 for a Certification of Citizenship via Form N-600, but "today, almost two and half years later, that application remains pending - although DHS did not appeal the IJ's decision that Mr. Weston is a citizen, effectively conceding his citizenship."
Without such papers, Weston was unable last year to attend his grandmother's funeral in Jamaica, the complaint alleges.
Weston seeks damages for false arrest, false imprisonment, negligence, civil conspiracy, and other charges. He is represented by Elyssa Williams with Formica Williams of New Haven, Conn.
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