Ga. Woman Who Claims U.S. Citizenship Was Detained, Attorney Says

An employee of Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga., waiting for the front gate to be opened so she can enter.
Credit Kate Brumback / AP Photo, File
Audio version of this story here.


A lawyer for a Gwinnett County woman say she was held in immigration detention for a month even though she has claims to U.S. citizenship.

Like us on Facebook

Elizabeth Hernandez-Carrillo, of Lilburn, was released Wednesday from detention after being arrested last month when immigration officials nationwide arrested hundreds of people during a series of enforcement operations, including 87 people in Georgia.

Carrillo was arrested because she had previously been deported. In 2004, she was ordered removed after she had violated her green card status for a marijuana trafficking conviction, said her attorney Hiba Ghalib.

Ghalib said Carrillo’s father was a U.S. citizen, making her a U.S. citizen who was born abroad.

“I think it highlights the fact that there’s a lot confusion about immigration law – a lot of misunderstanding, not just in the community but also in our enforcement community,” Ghalib said.

“It’s very difficult to enforce on a massive scale all of these policies that are in place right now without having people fall in the cracks,” she said.

Ghalib said she and her client are trying to gather the documentation to prove that Carrillo is a U.S. citizen.

Bryan Cox, a spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs enforcement said Carrillo currently hasn’t been determined to be a U.S. citizen.

“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement takes very seriously any and all assertions that an individual in its custody may have a claim to U.S. citizenship,” Cox said in a statement.

“As a matter of law, ICE cannot assert its civil immigration enforcement authority to arrest and/or detain a U.S. citizen. ICE has continuously reviewed and enhanced its policies and procedures to ensure all appropriate measures are in place to avoid such incidents. Claims of U.S. citizenship of individuals encountered by ICE officers, agents, and attorneys are immediately and carefully investigated and analyzed,” he said.

He said in fiscal year 2016, ICE released 169 people of the 1,101 whose claims to U.S. citizenship the agency reviewed.