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Carl Shusterman's Immigration Update

Chaos 75 Miles from the Border

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On arriving at my office on Monday, December 28, 2009, I was informed that one of my clients and her family were being detained by CBP Officers at an inland checkpoint. I immediately called her on her cell phone, and spent the rest of the day in an effort to explain to the CBP that both my client and her family were legally present in the U.S. and should immediately be released from custody. Below is the story as told by my client. I hope this will inspire the CBP to better train its officers, to treat immigrants with respect and to open the lines of communication with immigration attorneys:

I am a Registered Nurse who has a pending application for adjustment of status for permanent residency in the U.S. I have been working in El Centro Regional Medical Center which sponsored me over 2 years ago. My family and I reside in El Centro, CA, a small city near the border of Mexico. It is very common for us to be checked by the Border Patrol when we go out of town, because anywhere we go there is a checkpoint. One checkpoint is located to the East if we are going towards Yuma, AZ, one is to the West if we are going to San Diego, CA, and another one is located in Indio, CA, if we are heading North.

As far as I know, you need to present a valid identification document if you are asked to prove that you are legally allowed by the U.S. Immigration Service to stay in the U.S. We had been in and out of our town several times and there has never been a single problem that we encountered when being checked by a Border Patrol agent as part of the routine inspection process.

On December 28, 2009, my family planned to go to Palm Springs, CA, to celebrate my husband's birthday. We were all excited, especially my kids. We woke up early and headed towards Highway 86. We were very much aware that we were going to pass the checkpoint at Indio, CA. We carried our identification documents with us.

Around 8:30 am, we were checked, and sure enough, we were asked for our identification. We showed our EAD cards (for me and my husband) and Philippine passports for my 2 sons. The lady officer asked for some more documents and we showed papers from immigration that we had a pending adjustment of status for permanent residency. They instructed us to park on the side of the road, because they said that they still need to make some phone calls and check on their computer to verify something.

We were wondering why at this time, it took them quite a while to check whatever they needed to verify about our status. We saw the lady border officer approaching our car and, we were hoping that she would let us proceed on our family trip. Instead, she said that our kids were illegally staying in the US because they had an expired I-94s. My husband tried to explain that we all had pending applications for adjustment of status for permanent residency, so the I-94s had nothing to do with our status right now. The lady officer insisted that we were all wrong, and that whoever we got that information from doesn't know anything. She emphasized that what she stated was correct because this was her job. She informed us that we could renew our I-94s at the nearest US border office for $6.00 each.

Another officer approached us and said he would need to check his computer. So, we waited again inside our car.

At that time, I knew I needed help because this was not the usual type of check that we had encountered before. There was something wrong going on.

I called my lawyer's office and told the person who answered the phone the problem. She said to let the border officer check everything and not to worry because we had our legal documents and everything was good. She also said that Carl Shusterman would be in his office soon and that she would inform him about our situation.

While still on the phone, the lady officer approached us and said that I was not allowed to use my phone. I told her that I was merely asking my lawyer for help, but she insisted that I not make any calls.

After a while, the border officer who said he needed to do more checking came back. He said that the computer showed that our kids has overstayed their visas. He even questioned us as to why we sent them to school. He said that it was illegal for them to go to school without student visas. He also said that we could be charged with smuggling, and that our car could be taken away from us. The situation was getting worse, and the more me and my husband tried to explain, the more they got irritated. I informed them that it would be better if they spoke with my lawyer and that way he could explain more because he knows about our status. The lady officer replied that our lawyer doesn't know more about immigration legalities than they do. She also commented in an irritated voice that we were facing deportation for illegally staying in the US with expired I-94s. She wanted us to cooperate and do everything they wanted us to do for our benefit in order to ease the process.

I was so confused as well as my husband because we could not believe what was going on at that time. It seemed that the border officers did not understand and did not know what they were doing. They were accusing us for nothing since we had done nothing wrong.

I received a phone call from Carl Shusterman, and told him everything that was going on. A lady officer approached us again in our vehicle and said that I really don't understand that I am not allowed to use my phone. I informed her again that I was talking with my lawyer. I asked her if she could speak with him and I also told her that he could send them papers they needed to prove that we were not illegally staying in the US. She refused, and said they had their own system of checking which they can verify by themselves. She said that they were certain that we were all illegal, and then she left.

At around 11:00 am, 3 border officers approached our vehicle and they instructed us to step out from our car because we were being arrested for illegally staying in the US. I grabbed my phone again and tried to call back my lawyer. I was so hesitant to step out from our car. The lady officer said not to use my phone, but I told her that I just needed to inform my lawyer what was happening at that moment. My husband said that we had to follow their orders and just do whatever they wanted us to do and not to create any further problems. So, we all got out from our car, while I was still trying to get hold of our lawyer over the phone. I asked the lady officer to give me a few seconds to talk to my lawyer, but she was so aggressive and even tried to push me to move faster inside the detention area. One of the officers said that our lawyer would not be helpful and that usually they do not know about immigration, and that they only want our money.

According to my lawyer's advise, we had to follow the procedure they wanted us to do and call him back afterwards.

Inside the detention area, more questions were asked, we were fingerprinted, and our pictures were taken. They had us sign papers. They called the Philippine consulate for us to talk, but they just left a message because they said there was no one available at that time.
They informed us as follows:

a) We were illegally staying in the US with expired I-94s.

b) It was illegal for us to apply for an adjustment of status for permanent residency being B1/B2 visaholders when we came here. They said that our lawyer should know this.

c) Illegal for letting our kids go to school in the US without proper visas. They informed us that we should have applied for student visas for our kids.

d) Smuggling for owning a car in America.

e) Illegally working in US, we should be carrying an H1C visa to be able to work in the US.

f) Even though we had our EADs, we were illegally in the US because we didn't have valid visas.

g) Although we had "pending" applications for adjustment of status, there was no approval yet, so they said that we should be out of the country, and wait for the decision in the Philippines.

From all of these accusations they were telling us, it is clear that these Border Officers did not have any knowledge at all. Yet, they were trying to be smart and act like they knew everything.

They keep on telling us that our lawyer did not know the legalities of immigration, and that we had been informed incorrectly about our status.

We still managed to be patient and cooperate with them. They let our friend take our car instead of towing it. They informed us that we would be staying overnight in the detention area and would be transported to San Diego the following morning to go to a hearing before an Immigration Judge.

I asked them if I could make a phone call, because it was nearly 5:00 pm and I knew the offices would be closed soon and I might not be able to speak with my lawyer anymore. However, they did not allow us to make any phone calls because they said they still finishing some paperwork.

My husband and I kept ourselves calmed and composed, and were very respectful when dealing with the officers.

Since we couldn't make any phone calls to reach for help even from our relatives in the US, I never had a wasted moment, because I kept on praying and told my sons that we should be praying for a miracle and let our Lord work to show His love and care for us.

We never ate our meals the whole day, but they were kind enough to give us crackers, juice (with an expiration date of 08/11/09) and water to drink from a dirty water jug. We needed to use our empty juice plastic container so we could drink the water as instructed by one of the border officers.

They let us stay inside the detention room together as a family, for which we were very thankful, but the room was not kept clean.

I told myself that we didn't deserve being in this kind of situation and what was happening was not real. We were comforting our sons and asked them to be patient, and told them that it would be over soon.

At around 6:00 pm, an officer named Supervisor Gonzales asked my husband to step out from the detention room. He talked to my husband and said he just spoke to our lawyer. Our lawyer sent documents via fax and proved that all our papers were legitimate. When my husband returned inside the detention room, he told us that we were free to go.

I can't explain what I felt at that moment. I was so relieved from the stress of the day, I was so happy, but was so exhausted and mad. I wanted to say something bad and curse all those Border Officers who apprehended us, degraded us and did not gave us a chance to prove that we did not do anything illegal at all. Instead, I just cried and hugged my husband and sons.

While we were waiting for our friend to pick us up, it was already 7:00 pm at that time, my phone rung and it was Carl Shusterman, our lawyer. I am so very thankful that he really worked hard all day to help us. I have never met him personally and had never spoken to him before. On that day that we were having a problem, I spoke to him for the first time and I felt his sincerity. No words were enough to thank our lawyer and all his staff. I am wishing more power to our lawyer and his office.

Looking back over and over again, if only the border officers agreed to talk to our lawyer and had allowed him to send all the documents they needed to verify our status from the very start of the event, there would never have been such a waste of time and a spoiled day for all of us especially on my husband's birthday.

We witnessed how those Border officers worked hard doing their paperwork, although it turned out to be useless, nonsense and a waste of trees. All this paperwork will be shredded according to Supervisor Officer Gonzales, and all the information from the computer will be deleted. I hope they will do this after all.

To all the Border Officers working on that day at Indio, California, R Kearney, K Christoff, B Patterson, M Rucker, K Shurtleff and all the officers I can't recall their names, I hope you had an experience that you will never forget and that you will learn from your mistakes.

I hope that in the future, the government will assign Border Officers who have knowledge of our immigration laws and who will be humanitarian enough to treat all individuals as equal.

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Updated 12-02-2013 at 04:46 PM by CShusterman


  1. Sam's Avatar
    Sue them
  2. Poda's Avatar
    I would agree. Sue them. that is THE American way. Most people immigrate here because law & order is better in the US than in their home country.

    You can sue the individual officers for not performing their duties correctly. You can also sue the Border patrol agency for improperly training them.

    In the meantime, you should also contact other news agencies to publicize this story. I am sure your immigration lawyer would agree as well.
  3. Joel's Avatar
    Yep, sue the individuals for dereliction of duty ... this is clearly the case of incompetent officers. I just passed a similar check point near Juarez/El Paso without any problem and the officers were courteous and well informed.
  4. Rebecca's Avatar
    That is an incredible story I do hope you can get that published in the Times or some nationwide newspaper. Change needs to happen and I hope 2010 will be the year we finally see it.
  5. Alejandro Garcia's Avatar
    That is NOT the American way. That's the way of POS people, looking for a hand out.

    As visa holders, you should be happy this great country allowed you to be here in the first place.

    Though as great a country this is, people make mistakes, and I'm sure that posting their names does nothing but risks their safety. should be sued for having big mouth.

    Joel, dereliction of duty, really? Look up the definition.

    Yea, Rebecca, so incredible! Hopefully 2010 will have change, 12 million or more changes.

    Hopefully your petition gets approved, then you won't have to take up time from the Border Patrol that could be used catching drugs and illegal aliens. Illegal aliens that could come here and fight to make changes in 2010, sue everyone, then go out and kill someone while driving drunk.

  6. Carl McGinnis's Avatar
    I am so sorry you had this bad experience in America. May God please forgive us. Here is my story. At least you finally got someone to listen to you. Since July 14th I still have not been able to get anyone to listen to my friends story. He has spent $24,000 so far and the crooked lawyer just stole his money.This post comes from Carl McGinnis, a citizen of the United States, who has seen the horrors of immigrant detention after ICE detained his legal immigrant friend, Noureddine Feddane. He tells us that it is not just about undocumented immigrants but even people who follow the rules get burned in our archaic and inhumane immigration system].
    I am a citizen of the United States and I have a friend that is from Paris, France here on a student visa with a double Masters Degree and working on his PhD in International Finance. Noureddine Feddane has been here since 2005. His visa is valid until March of 2010, his passport is valid until 2014, and his I-20 is current. He is not what people call an 'illegal immigrant.' In 2007, he fell in love and in Dec. 2008 married a U.S. citizen that just happens to be addicted to prescription medications. He knew nothing about this. But he was arrested due to her mistakes. The reality is that his American wife was taking advantage of him and when his money was gone so was she. Janet Napolitano just wants to deport him rather than correct the problem, and make the American accountable. This is wrong. We should have some sort of protection built into the system. Judge Rex Ford would not listen to reason without the wife in court and all witnesses were not given time to testify. This is not what I thought American Justice was all about. I was wrong. It is all a game our Government plays with our lives.
    Noureddine was placed in detention and scheduled for deportation. He has been in the detention center in Pompano Beach Florida for 5 months now. This couple has lost all there savings on lawyers, she lost her job, and they are in the process of losing their home. All this was caused because ICE has the wrong person in jail.
    I have written many letters to Janet Napolitano, Senator Bill Nelson, Representative Ginny Brown-Waite and even President Obama. But no one will listen. What is illegal in this case is the way DHS is treating this guy, who is 51 and has never had a traffic violation. While in the detention center, He has been beaten by another inmate and suffered cracked ribs and bruised body, denied him food and proper medical treatment. Noureddine is diabetic and they will not give him the proper food or medical attention. The phone system is very poor and hardly works. I suspect that they plan it that way so the detainees cannot contact their lawyers and family. I fear he will be next on the long list of persons that have died while in detention. I beg for someone to go and listen to his story. They do not allow any form of media in because they don't want anyone to know what they are doing.This detention center is in south Florida where it is cold and going into the 20'2 tonight. This place has no heat in the rooms. It is unbelievable inAmerica we treat others this way. And on the news they are telling people to bring your animals and dogs into your house because it is to cold. but our government thinks nothing of locking 6 or 8 people in a room with no heat and only can wear hospital scrubs with no shoes only flip flop.I am so glad your family got out alive. The secret list is long of the ones that don't make it.
    Until you go to one of these detention centers and see with your own eyes, you will not believe what America is doing. I was shocked, on my first visit and after almost 6 months of seeing what happens and how they have to live, I am still in shock. It is all about the money. My friend has never cost America anything until they locked him up. He is in a private prison owned by a company called GEO based near Miami, Florida. They are paid very well by our tax dollars, but the treatment is unbelievable. I wonder how many politicians have stock in this company. They are doing quite well even in a bad economy.
    Six months ago I had no idea that we treated immigrants in this way, especially when they are here legally and have done nothing wrong. I knew nothing about ICE and how they operate illegally. I was under the impression that DHS was here only to protect us from terrorists. And I had no idea of the millions of our tax dollars were being wasted to imprison people that could be out of detention and have their family support them until a decision is made in immigration court. I do not understand why we have to pay our hard earned tax dollars to house and feed persons that are not dangerous.
    When they have to lock up a man who has done nothing wrong, make him spend thousands in fees, ICE is giving way too much importance to them selves. How can we turn such educated people away simply to boost the ego of ICE officers and add another number to the Janet Napolitano deportation list, so that the Obama Administration can look like it is doing its job of 'cracking down on criminals?'
    Something has to change soon. I feel it is my duty as an American to let as many people as possible know the truth. I visit the detention center every Saturday and spend the rest of the week writing letters. This New Year, lets do something worthwhile. Let's go back to protecting the country rather than making up stories to justify the expansion of a national security complex. Let's end businesses profiting from immigrant detention and restore our image as a nation of immigrants.

  7. Porfino's Avatar

    If America is so bad....leave and take you friend with you.

    Yeah, look at the way we treat others, scared to profile anyone because we might hurt their feelings. Even at this risk of mass death. Allowing criminal aliens to live in the U.S. because everyone wants to be nice to them and not "break" up families. 9 out of 10 illegal immigrants have DUI charges because their countries don't have sufficient law and they think they can still act like they're in their country. I could go on and profiting?!?!?!? Illegal aliens cost this country BILLIONS of dollars every year. Move out of America, to France, you would enjoy a country more "friendly".
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