The Case of an Undocumented Immigrant Found on International Waters

In 1992 an 18 year old boy left his home country after his father was killed. He was detained at sea without any identification by U.S. Coast Guard during the month of April and paroled into the United States in July of that same year.

Four years later, in 1996, the immigrant was alleged to be involved in a shooting. One person died and another was injured. The unlawful immigrant was convicted of attempted murder in 1997, so it is assumed he is responsible for the injuries that occurred in 1996. The Inspector-General report makes no mention of any accomplices as it is part of an inspection, audit and evaluation pertaining to immigration and not to criminal justice within the US.

The unlawful immigrant was sentenced to state prison for 20 years and ICE attempted to begin immigrant removal proceedings after 5 years of the prison sentence had been served, in 2001. He was released on probation in April 2012 after serving 15 years in state prison. As ICE had a 10 year old removal order that was still active, ICE proceeded to arrest the immigrant and book him into ICE custody.

The immigrant was cooperative with ICE and provided the information of at least three relatives living in the US. He also provided the name of the elementary school he attended and the place of his birth in his home nation.

His home nation refused to accept him for repatriation despite cooperating with the US on 95% of removal orders and filling up a plane every month full of people being repatriated from the US on removal orders from ICE. His home country is in fact one of the most cooperative nations in regards to deportations from the US.

The reason his home nation gave for refusing to accept him was that insufficient documentation was provided to prove his citizenship. Upon inquiring further and giving the name of the elementary school and his place of birth, ICE was directed to speak with the nations consular’s office in the US for further processing. The home nation assured ICE that the immigrant would be removed once the appropriate identification was obtained from the consular’s office. The consular’s office currently had a backlog of over 300 similar cases however and had not issued any identifications for over a year.

In October 2012, ICE escalated the case and noted in internal documents that cases without identity documents were difficult to process despite having occasional success in the past. The internal communications mentioned that work would continue with the US Department of State on finding a permanent resolution for immigrants without home nation documentation. Under international law, an immigrant with no foreseeable likelihood of removable can only be held in custody for so long. In the US, this is currently set to about 180 days after exhaustion of all reasonable deportation efforts. 

On November 9, 2012 the unlawful immigrant was released from ICE custody due to “no likelihood of removable in the reasonably foreseeable future”. He had to check in with ICE once a month, then quarterly before finally being put on yearly reporting.

The immigrant was arrested for selling illegal drugs in June 2015 and was charged with murder 10 days later. He was convicted of murder in April 2016.

While the unlawful immigrant was in custody for illegal drug sales and murder, he was temporary approved for repatriation to his home country. His mother’s immigration file indicated he was her son on two different forms and his home nation approved repatriation 5 days later. This happened in February of 2016. However, the home nation quickly withdrew their approval due to insufficient documentation. Upon ICE contacting his mother less than two weeks after examining her immigration file, she explained that his documents were lost in time. The unlawful immigrant was convicted of murder two months later.

An Introduction to Immigration Statistics

Immigration is often touted as a happy go lucky tale about a hardworking immigrant seeking opportunity and friendship in a magical foreign land made of gold coins and models to mate with. In this narrative, the immigrants adventure is turned into a plight by the mean border patrol agents who want to hurt them, tear their families apart and put their children in prison.

This is far from the truth. The US currently has around 11 million illegal aliens or undocumented immigrants. The term used is irrelevant because what matters is that they have no legal right to be in the country and the US Government is not obligated to provide any type of care for them beyond basic humanitarian aid (a gym mat to sleep on, tap water to drink, and a few meals a day with the bare minimum nutrients).

Setting aside the topic of gang membership, terrorism and criminality for a bit; the US is limited in the number of immigrants it can let into the country on a yearly basis. This number is set based on the following factors:

  • Quantity of Food grown per year in the US.
  • Number of available housing units.
  • Family growth rate for people lawfully in the US and authorized to start families.
  • Amount of land needed for the projected growth rate of authorized US families.
  • Construction rate.
  • Job growth rate.

Based on these factors, the US Currently allows 140,000 people into the US each year that will be eligible for US Citizenship. None of these people will be eligible to apply for citizenship until they have been in the US for at least 5 years. At the end of the 5 year period, they may not be ready for the citizenship test, may decide to go back home or may end up getting deported for being involved in a a criminal enterprise or non-peaceful riots. It’s unlikely the will be deported for traffic tickets, getting fired from a job or dropping out of school to switch majors or to explore on the job training instead. The important part is to keep in contact with an immigration officer and to let them know what is going on with you.

Each year, the US naturalizes around 750,000 people per year and an additional 700,000 are allowed to enter the US on temporary work visas, seasonal work visas or educational visas. The US also issues over 10 million tourist visas per year, many at the airport or cruise ship port of entry.

During any given 10 year census period the US has the following immigration statistics on average:

  • 1.4 million people allowed to enter the US in order to become a citizen.
  • 7.5 million people naturalized (became a US Citizen).
  • 7 million people on temporary, seasonal or educational visas.
  • 100 million people visited the US on a tourist visa.

The majority of people that enter the US do so legally and leave when the their visas expire or shortly thereafter. It’s actually not a big deal to overstay your visa by a few days or a few weeks if there are legitimate travel issues involved. The majority of illegal aliens or undocumented immigrants are actually, people who overstayed their visas and the reason they are problematic is because they have overstayed their visas for many years or immediately throw away their identification once their visa expires.

Around 38% of illegal aliens are illegal aliens because they unlawfully crossed an international border. With approximately 10.5 million illegal aliens in the US, this represents approximately 4 million people in the US who are here unlawfully because they illegally crossed an international border in violation of established international treaties, agreements and contracts. The US documents about 75,000 illegal border crossings per year which is a reduction to the 470,000 illegal border crossings per year that occurred between 2000 and 2007.

ICE removes around 250,000 people per year or 2.5 million per census period. With 10 million people currently in the US illegally, it would take the US 40 years to remove all illegal aliens. However, due to advances in technology, better understanding of international treaties, improved cooperation with other nations and  the recognition of Government obligations to provide for the safety and well being of their citizens and lawful residents first, that number is planned to increase.

During the Obama Administration 1.2 illegal aliens were removed between 2010 and 2012 and in 2012, over 400,000 illegal aliens were removed. That goal was set by ICE and they were able to sustain that number for 4 years before deportations slowly dropped off to their current levels.

There are some issues with deportation, the most obvious being illegal re-entry. President Trump has set a goal of deporting 2-3 illegal immigrants per year and patching the border wall to prevent illegal re-entry. The 2-3 million yearly deportation capability may seem haughty at first but it is feasible with a paperless government that has good relations with the immigrants home country. In a paperless Government, ICE can start communicating with a home nation and obtain all paperwork for deportation prior to a physical arrest. Over 60% of illegal aliens are illegal because they overstayed their visa so its just a matter of transmitting their visa end date to their home nation and obtaining approval for repatriation. This is known as an administrative arrest and when the alien is physically arrested, the court proceedings begin.

In a paperless Government, the only piece of the puzzle left for mass deportation is the logistics in removing 10 million people. In this regard, Heathrow airport accommodates 80 million passengers yearly, same as Chicago O’hare. A smaller airport like Reagan airport in Washington D.C. is able to serve over 40 million passengers yearly, La Guardia serves 30 million yearly, JFK 60 million, Dallas Fort-Worth 60 million and Atlanta serves 100 million passengers per year. LAX which is known as one of the busiest airports has a 60 million yearly capacity. A 3 million person deportation capacity can be achieved by reserving 1% of the yearly passenger capacity at 5 of the busies airports for ICE deportation use.

In examining illegal border crossings and attempting to remain unbiased, it’s worth mentioning that these people have a home nation that could have issued them a visa and it is not uncommon for refugees or asylum seekers to visit the US with a tourist visa and immediately head to a embassy or federal building to seek asylum or claim refugee status. In this regard, an human trafficker providing illegal border crossing services, charges a fee of around $10,000 normally payable with a $2,000 – $3,000 down payment and monthly, quarterly or yearly payments thereafter until the debt is paid off. Since the illegal alien can not obtain legal employment as the employers get fined for hiring them, their only option is to work under the table at below the poverty level wages, to join a drug trafficking gang or to turn to prostitution to pay off the debt. Once the debt is paid off, they are usually too ashamed or too much of a hardened criminal to attempt to re-enter society.

In contrast a round trip plane ticket to the US from nearly any country in the world for 1 person usually costs less than $1,000. Upon landing in the US, an asylum seeker or refugee can immediately go to an embassy or federal building to request assistance back home or to ask for their family to be relocated to the US due to dangerous conditions at home. While both routes provide risk and danger to the immigrant, the legal route often results in valid asylum or refugee requests being granted and allows diplomatic services to lawfully investigate the claim back home. Crossing illegally raises suspicion of an ulterior motive with immigration employees and if the immigration employees decide to believe the story, they may be accused of corruption or corroborating with an international criminal enterprise if they attempt to help. Therefore they often can not lawfully help. Not checking with a government authority as quickly as possible after an illegal crossing complicates matters further and almost guarantees that the immigrant will be subjected to living illegally for the rest of their life.

Its worth noting that in 2019, ICE obtained the following convictions:

  • 1,900 homicides
  • 1,800 kidnappings
  • 5,000 sexual assaults
  • 35,000 assaults
  • 63,000 drug charges
  • 8,000 weapons offenses
  • 74,000 driving while intoxicated

When discussing enforcement of deportation for illegal aliens, this is where ICE concentrates its efforts. Most families in the US illegally are often administratively arrested while ICE and Department of State investigate what is going on back home to cause them to flee. Upon determining no threat exists at home, ICE proceeds with a physical arrest and deportation and most often tries to place unaccompanied minors with relatives back home when they are deported. The US faces international liability for improperly processing an underage immigrant as they are a protected class under an International Child Abduction Treaty.

Immigration is an area of law that is covered by treaties, agreements and contracts between nations. Illegal immigration can be construed as crossing into the sovereign territory of an ally or adversary which can be considered an act of war or interpreted as an invasion in the worst case scenarios. In a best case scenario, the nation that your nation allowed an illegal immigrant to cross into will send you an invoice for their expenses and deportation fees. Laws of espionage and the Geneva Conventions’ delineation between civilian and armed forces are also factors for consideration.

Having the proper statistics, helps policy makers discuss the areas of immigration that need reform or additional enforcement and to prioritize discussions on immigration based on need and quantity of people in similar situations.

Application of International Law and US Policy

The UN Security Council deals with issues besides observation of wars and battles and enforcement of treaties as they relate to rules of engagement, proportional force, banned weapons use and treatment of civilians. As the Security Council has oversight of international peace and security, the Security Council is authorized to focus on issues such as economic development, food security, water sanitation, energy independence and immigration when they relate to sustained peace in an area or region.

Crossing an international border implies consent to abide by an international treaty or breach of contract for established international protocols regarding sovereignty of nations and their policies for managing the resources allocated to that nation.

Boundary Agreements have been studied by Oxford University and the university provides case studies from the International Court of Justice between 2000 to 2010. UNCLOS also sets a nations coastal boundaries as 12 miles for territorial waters and 200 miles as a nations exclusive economic zone. In the US, territorial waters can be patrolled by a State but they often defer those duties to the Federal Government due to lack of resources. The Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is considered Federal Waters and governed under the laws of interstate commerce in the US. From there private shipping companies are required to abide by maritime law when in international waters and foreign slips or docks. The US Armed Forces operate under rules of engagement for international seas outside the US EEZ.

Under international law, border crossings are covered by boundary agreements and in many cases formal treaties such as the Schengen Agreement. Illegally crossing through a water way would still be covered by boundary agreements or UNCLOS as you can not enter a nation through a water body without entering their territorial waters.

The Inspector General Report does not specify the coordinates where the unlawful immigrant was found only that they found him at sea without any paperwork. If he was in international waters he may have been picked up as a ship in distress after the U.S. Coast Guard was notified by the U.S. Navy or by a commercial container ship and responded as the closest government to incident area. If he was in territorial waters or the EEZ, the US Coast Guard does have a right to conduct an inspection of seaworthiness of the vessel.

Oath of Citizenship

Regardless of the exact details for being picked up and eventually detained, the unlawful immigrant did not have any identification at all. By default, he is considered a stateless individual found on international waters unless  determined to be otherwise. The US placed them in their “custody” for a period of 90 days while they attempted to sort things out and “paroled” him into US Custody . This parole shows an intent of guardianship under international law but its not necessarily permanent nor does it imply approval for permanent residency or citizenship.

The US Oath of Citizenship requires that a citizen perform non-combatant service in the Armed Forces when required and legally able to do so, to perform civilian work of national importance when required and legally able to do so, to bear arms on behalf of the United States when required and legally able to so and to take the oath without any reservations or intent to obtain citizenship through fraud or misrepresentation (purpose of evasion).

The US Oath of Citizenship requires that Citizens help the Government when in need or when a national emergency arises. If they are to serve in the Armed Forces, even in a non-combatant role, they must meet the qualifications to serve in the Armed Forces. In a civilian role, helping in national security matters would most likely resemble Citizens working as a Civil Defence Force (CDF). Lastly, Citizenship can be revoked if the Citizenship was obtained through fraud or misrepresentation. If the citizen started off stateless and they obtained citizenship through fraud and misrepresentation, the US is in a bit of a bind because under international law, they can not make a person stateless.

Refugee Status

Under the US Refugee Act 1980, a refugee must be made self sufficient as quickly as possible. This is normally thought to be a period of 2-3 years among U.S. Policy makers unless the refugee must undergo psychological and/or psychiatric therapy for PTSD, flash backs, anger issues and other war or violence related traumas. In those cases, it can take about 5-6 years to make a refugee self sufficient. The US Refugee Act 1980, also requires that the US make 1 generation of children self sufficient as quickly as possible. This is interpreted as meaning, before the age of 24 so they have time to finish high school, get some part-time work experience and complete a bachelors degree before beginning a professional career and being introduced to the services of the Department of Labor directly.

These policies were voluntarily self imposed by the US, they are not related to the UN Refugee Agency Global Compact although the policies may have evolved from discussion at the 1951 Convention.

If the unlawful immigrant was forthcoming about his fathers murder as soon as he turned 18, having family in the US and having to flee, possibly seeking help on international waters from a passing vessels. He may have qualified for refugee status. Taking into light that he was subsequently involved in a violent altercation is not necessarily a disqualification if the people who murdered his father followed him into the US. He appears to have had no issues for a period of 3 years while in the US and the circumstances of leaving his home country need to be taken into consideration.

Upon his release in 2012, he had no further incidents and he completed his sentence in State Prison on good terms because he would not be eligible for a 5 year early release if he had not been on good behavior. Approximately 3 years later, about the same time period before being involved in an altercation upon his initial arrival, he was arrested for drug trafficking and a homicide. It is unclear when the homicide occurred as the Inspector-General report does not specify.

It is worth noting the plight of the students at ITT Tech. Many of them were targeted for enrollment while still in high school and told ITT Tech was a better than school than Harvard, Berkeley, MIT or Stanford University and that it surpassed Ivy Leagues in technology education. They were told a $100,000 a year job would be guaranteed to them upon graduation and later told, that those funds would be made available to them when their undercover commitment was over and they needed to be placed in a lower paying job in the interim but would later receive wages for the full amount.

In 2014, The ITT Tech Warriors group emerged accusing the Department of Education of fraud, debt bondage, slave labor, endangering their lives, putting them in dangerous situations with no official law enforcement training. In many times some of them had criminal records and they were told the criminal record helped in infiltrating drug gangs further but their criminal record prevented them from carrying a gun for self defense even in dangerous situations.

The ITT Tech Warriors group filed lawsuits and people outside the group made contact with actual police informants to turn over information to the law enforcement, DEA and US Marshalls. In 2016, all 131 campuses of ITT Tech were shutdown.

Students at ITT Tech that were guaranteed jobs at FBI, CIA, CSI Divisions of Police Departments and NCIS were allowed to “recruit” and build their own teams under the “auspices” of the college and the school cultured spurred a culture of vigilantism outside of the that may have affected refugees and asylum seekers. The circumstances involving his second offense and a full history of his father along with the circumstances surrounding his families migration to the US should be evaluated.

In either case, the US did not process him as a refugee despite having a very high likelihood that he would have qualified under international law. He already had family in the US, his father had just been murdered and he was found at sea with no documentation of his identity. The U.S. Coast Guard, ICE and Department of State should have had processes in place to obtain his identification before he obtained any criminal convictions not after he had already served a 15 year prison sentence and was going to prison for murder, possibly for self defence from a drug trafficking gang. The home nations consular office should have been contacted for identification during his first 90 day detainment.

The US Role in International Security and Controlled Migration

Lawful Migration

Controlled migration does not mean an Orwellian government monitoring every area of your life. Between 8 major airports Heathrow, Beijing, Atlanta, Chicago, Washington D.C., New York, New York JFK, Dallas Fort-Worth and Los Angeles there are nearly 1/2 a billion passengers processed yearly. Airplane flights into and out of nations require proper documentation so it is the preferred method of lawful migration as it has the most robust systems. Large personal property items can be shipped via barge or transport ship where the items can be inspected for contraband just as they are in airplane cargo jets.

For those traveling by vehicles, it is recommended to only travel with essentials and to either leave your home as is with all your property in it or to place the most valuable or essential items in storage if you are at risk of being evicted during your trip. This allows peacekeepers to inventory your personal property and determine a value associated with fleeing your home. If you are not fleeing and you are close enough to a neighboring nation and traveling by vehicle for economical or leisurely purposes, it is till recommended to ship most of your property through a shipping company and travel only with essential items and about two weeks worth of clothes per person.

In the case of the unlawful immigrant, he was found with no property and no identification based on other statements from the Inspector-Generals Office not included in the initial report.

Mitigating Security Risks

As a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council, the US is tasked with maintenance of international peace and security along with China, France, the UK and Russia. They each have their own region of security they monitor and have oversight of each others operations. The 10 non-permanent members are brought in for training and reporting on their respective sub-regions.

As it relates to refugees and asylum seekers, the US must make sure that groups of refugees coming from opposing groups in conflict are not housed near each other and that their community leaders are made fully aware of the conventions of wars, requirements for maintaining civilian status and the simplified peacekeeping process.

A similar process is used when housing refugees or asylum seekers coming from areas where terrorism or drug trafficking is prevalent in the community. Refugees are people fleeing violence and conflict, asylum seekers are people that have been attacked by their own government for conducting lawful activities. An area or region may have both refugees and asylum seekers. For example, refugees may be fleeing an area due to violence from drug trafficking gangs but a community leader or investigative reporter may be claiming asylum because the mayor and police force were involved in  actual drug trafficking instead of just evidence collection and processing and they obtained evidence of it.

This further complicates matters for immigration officers and peacekeepers as they must determine who is involved in drug trafficking, what the extent of the government corruption is, and they must filter out applicants within the group whose sole purpose is to spy on, harass and intimidate the refugees and asylum seekers.

The unlawful immigrant would appear to fall within this area of law and both altercations with a firearm still have a potential to viewed as self defence.

The Potential Media Narratives and Conspiracy Theories

The media was in the habit of dramatizing and sensationalizing stories for improved ratings and reviews that led to higher valued advertising accounts due to having a large audience. In this regard, US media has returned to abiding by the Professional Code of Conduct for the Press as outlined by the Associated Press  and the BBC has agreed to better differentiate between its news that are satire and news that are of actual events. There are over 100 BBC channels so as a start BBC Worldnews would not air satire and BBC London would better differentiate between serious news and commentary or satire related by placing commentary or satire in its own segment in a similar manner that the US does with morning shows, prime time commentary and the 10’oclock news. All other BBC stations would be free to self organize their content but are recommended to place extreme satire related to the news into a comedy portion of the BBC Networks. Two popular news channels outside of BBC in the UK include Channel 4 News and ITV News.

Prior to these developments, the news might of provided the following narratives without regard to the privacy rights of the immigrant, without knowledge of  international law, without knowledge of current policy developments and by associating the matter to dramatic television accounts of politics. The news would then come up with narratives as follows:

  • The unlawful immigrant was a drug trafficker running drug trafficker enforcement actions within the US.
  • The unlawful immigrant found a loophole in international allowing to come into the US as stateless person and preventing the US from ever deporting him, so the US set him up on a homicide charge.
  • The Department of State heard about his plight in his home country so they provided instructions to him on loopholing the immigration system but then he got into trouble so the Department of State regretted their initial decision.
  • The immigrant embarked on an adventure seeking fame and fortune and was unaware of his fathers death until later, his intent was to land on Ellis Island and become a celebrity.

All of these accounts are wrong and disrespectful to both the family and government. In the scenario where the immigrant and his father were involved in drug trafficking as an organized group, making that determination without evidence and without taking into account the matters that transpired with the culture originating at ITT Tech violates the due process rights of the immigrant and places an unneeded bias on the whole situation.

References and Sources

UN Security Council Explained

UN Peacekeepers Standards of Conduct

UN Sustainable Development Goals

US Oath of Allegiance Legislation

US Oath of Allegiance Implementation Policy

US Oath of Allegiance as Administered by US Citizenship and Immigration Services

Obama – Chief Deportation Officer for the United States

Tracking 2 Million Ice Arrests: 2008 to 2018

ICE Administrative Arrest Data for 2019 Q2

Fiscal Year 2019 Preliminary Data for Visas Issues at a Foreign Post

Humanitarian Parole Application and Documents by USCIS

Humanitarian Parole Overview by Pozo Goldstein Law Firm

Advance Parole by Pozo Goldstein Law Firm

Illegal Alien Statistics and Examination by Brookings Institute

Case Law on Boundary Agreements in the International Court of Justice from 2000 to 2010 by Oxford University

UN Web Portal on Oceans and Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)

US Navy Criminal Disqualifications for Enlistment

Civil Defence in International Humanitarian Law

US Refugee Act 1980 

Refugee Admissions

UNHCR Global Compact on Refugees by UN General Assembly

UNHCR Conferences and Meetings

UNHCR Resources for Asylum Seekers in the US

EU Charter on Fundamental Rights – Right to Asylum

Unauthorized Immigrants Population Estimates by Pew Research

Employment Based Immigration Statistics by RPC

ITT Tech Warriors Facebook Group

Associated Press Code of Ethics 1995

Associated Press News Values and Principles and Social Media Guidelines (scroll to the bottom)