Politics & Government

Cases of U.S. citizens detained over immigration status emerge in Florida

One early morning two weeks ago, Christopher Zambrano was biking home on the 79th Street Causeway near North Bay Village when one of several men in black clothes riding in an SUV ordered him to stop.

Fearing imminent robbery, Zambrano pedaled faster to get away but the man in the SUV switched on flashing lights and through a loudspeaker ordered him to pull over.

As he got off his bicycle, Zambrano heard the man ask for his papers.

“I said, ‘What do you mean papers?’ He said ‘ID.’ I told him I had nothing on me, not even a driver’s license, because I don’t have a car.”

As the man asked if he was legally in the country, more men clad in black converged on the scene in other SUVs near a bus stop on the eastbound lanes of a bridge linking Miami and North Bay Village.

Zambrano said he was a citizen, but the men who detained him refused to release him.

They summoned a Miami-Dade police officer who then transported Zambrano to jail because he had an outstanding warrant for driving with an expired license in 2008.

Zambrano is the latest U.S. citizen to complain about being detained and questioned about his immigration status despite having been born in the United States.

He contacted El Nuevo Herald after reading a story about the cases of four other U.S. citizens, including a South Florida-born teen detained near Florida City by a Border Patrol officer, who were mistaken for undocumented immigrants.

Meanwhile, a Coral Gables immigration attorney also contacted the newspaper to say that two clients are now at the Krome detention center in west Miami-Dade even after claiming U.S. citizenship.

Eduardo Soto, the lawyer, said his clients did not have U.S. passports or certificates of citizenship, but noted that they do have documents to prove they derived citizenship through the naturalization of U.S. citizen parents.

Their cases, however, are more complex than that of Zambrano, who has a U.S. passport and a birth certificate issued in Atlanta, where he was born of a Guatemalan father and an Irish-Polish mother. However, he was not carrying those documents when he was detained on June 7.

Zambrano said the accounts of some of the people quoted in the El Nuevo Herald story matched his own experience as he returned home after visiting a friend in Miami.

To read the complete article, visit www.miamiherald.com.

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