In a flagrant and seemingly unprecedented violation of U.S. due process, a Central American man has been extrajudicially deported by ICE before having his scheduled day in immigration court. His illegal expulsion happened during an action that sent scores of detainees from Louisiana to Guatemala on an airplane, after they had tested positive for the coronavirus while in ICE detention, but later were deemed virus-free. The Intercept confirmed that one person was illegally deported in this manner, but there may have been more victims.
On August 19, Cesar Marroquín was put on a packed flight to Guatemala after spending five months in detention, waiting to pursue a claim for asylum and for protection against torture in his home country. By law, ICE cannot deport someone unless an immigration judge first orders their removal; ICE merely carries out the judges’ decisions. But before a judge could rule on whether or not Marroquín should be deported, ICE contravened the court’s authority and expelled him.
ICE has admitted to The Intercept that the expulsion was improper. In an emailed statement, agency spokesperson Bryan Cox said that Marroquín’s deportation resulted from an “administrative error” that is “exceedingly rare.” Cox did not respond when asked if other immigrants on the plane in addition to Marroquín were illegally deported.
Illegal deportations do happen, but almost always after an immigrant has lost his or her case in immigration court and is in the process of appealing the decision. In a typical case, Bakhodir Madjitov, a musician from Uzbekistan, applied for political asylum in the U.S. after he came to this country to perform at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. He eventually lost his case but appealed the court’s decision. In 2019, he won a stay of the removal, but mere hours later ICE tried to deport him from John F. Kennedy International Airport. In a lawsuit Madjitov filed last month against the government and the ICE agents, he alleges that he insisted to the agents that he had just won a stay of removal and asked them to check the court’s website. He refused to board the plane, and he said the agents responded by beating and tasering him. He was hospitalized, and his medical records show that he was tasered.
But no judge or court ever ordered Cesar Marroquín deported before he was booted out of the U.S. That he was about to speak with an immigration judge but instead was put on a plane bound for Guatemala “is stunning,” said Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy counsel for the American Immigration Council. “I haven’t ever heard of anyone deported on the day he was to be taken to a hearing,” Reichlin-Melnick said.