Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

And The Difference Between Russia And America Is What?

Posted by Phoenix Woman on January 25, 2008

It’s certainly not freedom — not even for native-born Americans:

Thomas Warziniack was born in Minnesota and grew up in Georgia, but immigration authorities pronounced him an illegal immigrant from Russia.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has held Warziniack for weeks in an Arizona detention facility with the aim of deporting him to a country he’s never seen. His jailers shrugged off Warziniack’s claims that he was an American citizen, even though they could have retrieved his Minnesota birth certificate in minutes and even though a Colorado court had concluded that he was a U.S. citizen a year before it shipped him to Arizona.

During a deportation hearing Thursday morning, pleas by Warziniack’s family and lawyer to release him, as well as a copy of his birth certificate proving his citizenship, did little to deter the government.

The immigration agents told me they never make mistakes,” Warziniack said in a phone interview from jail. “All I know is that somebody dropped the ball.”

So, ICE has admitted they screwed up and now Warzinack gets to stay home? Uh, no and maybe not:

After he was arrested in Colorado on a minor drug charge, Warziniack told probation officials there wild stories about being shot seven times, stabbed twice and bombed four times as a Russian army colonel in Afghanistan, according to court records. He also insisted that he swam ashore to America from a Soviet submarine.

Court officials were skeptical. Not only did his story seem preposterous, but the longtime heroin addict also had a Southern accent and didn’t speak Russian.

Colorado court officials quickly determined his true identity in a national crime database: He was a Minnesota-born man who grew up in Georgia. Before Warziniack was sentenced to prison on the drug charge, his probation officer surmised in a report that he could be mentally ill.

Although it took only minutes for McClatchy to confirm with Minnesota officials that a birth certificate under Warziniack’s name and birth date was on file, Colorado prison officials notified federal authorities that Warziniack was a foreign-born prisoner.

McClatchy also was able to track down Warziniack’s three half-sisters. Even though they hadn’t seen him in almost 20 years, his sisters were willing to vouch for him.

One of them, Missy Dolle, called the detention center repeatedly, until officials there stopped returning her calls. Her brother’s attorney told her that a detainee in Warziniack’s situation often has to wait weeks for results, even if he or she gets a copy of a U.S. birth certificate.

Warziniack, meanwhile, waited impatiently for an opportunity to prove his case. After he contacted the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, a group that provides legal advice to immigrants, a local attorney recently agreed to represent him for free.

Dolle and her husband, Keith, a retired sheriff’s deputy in Mecklenburg County, N.C., flew to Arizona from their Charlotte home to attend her brother’s hearing before an immigration judge.

Before she left, she e-mailed Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. After someone from his office contacted ICE, immigration officials promised to release Warziniack if they got a birth certificate.

After scrambling to get a power of attorney to obtain their brother’s birth certificate, the sisters succeeded in getting a copy the day before the hearing.

On Thursday, however, government lawyers told an immigration judge that they needed a week to verify the authenticity of Warziniack’s birth record. The judge delayed his ruling.

“I still can’t believe this is happening in America,” Dolle said.

Warziniack began to weep when he saw his sister. “They still don’t believe me,” he said.

Warziniack, 40, told McClatchy that he has no memory of telling anyone he was Russian. Instead, he recalled the shock of withdrawing from his heroin addiction after 18 years of drug abuse.

And as the story notes, he’s far from the only actual American citizen ICE has tried to deport. As shown by the case of Pedro Guzman last year, they often succeed. (h/t Atrios)

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4 Responses to “And The Difference Between Russia And America Is What?”

  1. Michael said

    I believe Pedro Guzman did turn up eventually, but that was completely wrong.

  2. Michael said

    here.

  3. Oh, yes. He was eventually found. But it wasn’t because of anything ICE did.

  4. Charles said

    Law enforcement everywhere seems to be on a tear.

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