News Americas, SEATTLE, WA, Weds. Mar. 8, 2011: The Department of Homeland Security has issued a formal apology to a Belize-born, U.S. Army veteran who was imprisoned by Immigration and Customs Enforcement by mistake.
The DHS was forced to say sorry to Rennison Castillo a naturalized United States citizen and U.S. Army veteran, who was imprisoned at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington for more than seven months.
The DHS also agreed to pay him $400,000 and has since revised their operation instructions on how to handle persons who present U.S. citizen claims.
Castillo had just completed his sentence for violation of a protection order and harassment in November of 2005 when instead of being released from jail he was transferred to the custody of ICE, which held him at the Northwest Detention Center for the next seven and a half months.
During his detention, Castillo repeatedly explained to several different ICE officers, and then to an immigration judge, that he was a naturalized U.S. citizen and had honorably served this country in the U.S. military.
Nonetheless, Castillo was detained by ICE which claimed that he was in the country illegally and began deportation proceedings against him. He was only released after Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) took up his case on appeal.
“When I was detained, I was shocked and felt betrayed that, after serving in the military, I was placed in that position,” Rennison said. “ICE officers did not listen to me when I told them repeatedly that I was a U.S. citizen and had served in the Army at Fort Lewis. They were disrespectful and told me that I would say anything to get out of detention. It was a nightmare.”
“What was most disturbing to me in reviewing this case was the callous indifference of the ICE officials,” said his attorney, Matt Adams. “We knew we had to take some sort of action to try to prevent this abuse of power from happening again in the future.”
Castillo was born in Belize and migrated to the United States when he was six years old. In 1996, Castillo enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving for a period of seven years, before being honorably discharged in 2003.
During his military service, Castillo applied for naturalization, completed all of the requirements and was sworn in as a United States citizen in October 1998.