Top directors of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, along with secretary of state John Kerry, face a federal lawsuit from an American citizen who claims he's been trapped in Mexico by the border patrol since 2011, Courthouse News Service reports.
Oscar Olivas says that while attempting to cross the border in August 2011, border agents denied him entry despite his citizenship and "referred him for a hearing at an unspecified date that occurred" without Olivas’s presence or knowledge.
Olivas had been living with his wife and stepson in Mexicali while they applied for immigrant visas, a years-long process. Living in the Imperial Valley border town allowed him to remain with his wife during the application process while crossing the border to work in the U.S.
According to his complaint, Olivas has attempted to petition Customs staff to regain his border-crossing privileges but claims "officials have told Mr. Olivas that if he returns to ask additional questions about his case, he will be arrested, detained for a period of time that will 'not be brief,' and removed without seeing a judge."
Compounding problems, Olivas, not a legal Mexican citizen, is ineligible for employment in Mexico and thus unable to work to provide for his family. His 12-year-old daughter does not have access to the special needs classes she requires and instead attends schools where lessons are given in Spanish, a language she has little grasp of.
The problems relate to officials questioning the validity of Olivas’s birth certificate. When the 45-year-old was born in 1969, his mother, a Mexican national, was afraid of visiting a hospital and his birth took place in a private residence with the assistance of a midwife. Five months later, acting on advice of a doctor performing a check-up on the infant, his mother obtained a "delayed registration birth certificate" in 1970.
When immigration officials interviewed his mother (who has since obtained her own U.S. citizenship) as part of the review process for granting his wife residency, she was allegedly threatened with the revocation of her citizenship unless she signed an affidavit stating that she had falsified information in order to obtain Olivas’s birth certificate, and that he had actually been born in Mexico. After being detained for several hours, she allegedly agreed to sign a pre-typed confession.
"In preventing Mr. Olivas from returning to his home country, the government has unlawfully disregarded both the practical and constitutional meaning of citizenship,” says Gabriela Rivera, staff attorney for the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, which calls Olivas’s situation a "Kafkaesque nightmare" and filed the lawsuit on his behalf.
Olivas is seeking a restoration of his right to travel to and from the United States, an affirmation of his citizenship status, and an admission that his exile violates the due-process clause of the Fifth Amendment.