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Friday, August 13, 2010

Deportations raise rights question; Consul wants proof immigrants properly informed

By Crystal Gutierrez
11 Aug 2010

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - A traffic stop that led to the deportation of two illegal immigrants raises serious questions about whether detained aliens are being informed of their rights under an international treaty, according to Mexico's consul in Albuquerque.

Consul Gustavo de Unánue said he now wants to see documentation that the civil rights of illegal immigrants from Mexico are not being violated.

According to the Mexican Consulate on July 9 an Albuquerque police officer pulled over a man and his sister and said they were speeding.

De Unánue said after the officer asked for the man’s driver’s license, registration and insurance he asked about the pair’s citizenship. De Unánue said the officer then called Border Patrol.

Soon after the federal agents arrived the sibling’s parents drove up and that is when their father’s citizenship was questioned.

The Mexican Consul said the officer was racial profiling and had no right to call in Border Patrol.

“It’s not his job,” de Unánue said. “If you detain somebody for speeding you give them the speed ticket and that’s it.”

Albuquerque’s Public Safety Director Darren White said the officer was trying to verify the man’s identity and that procedure is allowed.

Both the father and son were deported.

However, racial profiling is not the only thing that the consulate is questioning.

“We're talking about the rights of these people to contact their consulate,” de Unánue said.

De Unánue said neither of the men, who were deported, called the consulate. Then he started looking up all the other cases of deportations that started with city police.

Since Mayor Richard J. Berry's initiative allowing federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to check the immigration status of everyone arrested in the city about 150 illegal immigrants have been identified.

According to the Vienna Convention all illegal immigrants who are arrested in any country are supposed to be informed that they have the right to talk to their country's consulate.

The Mexican Consul said not one has called the consulate.

“I am assuming that no one told them they had the right to contact me,” de Unánue said.

City spokesman T.J. Wilham said that it is not the job of the city to make sure illegal immigrants are being told about their civil rights since city officers do not check the citizenship status.

“We are not in the business of checking immigration status,” Wilham said.

Wilham said the city is leaving that up to the federal agents, ICE officials, who are housed in the same prisoner transport center as the city police.

De Unánue said no matter whose job it is the consulate wants documentation that it's being done.

He said they will propose that all illegal immigrants be given a document informing them of their rights to read and sign.

“Just to make sure the people have their rights respected,” de Unánue said.

According to ICE Spokesperson Leticia Zamarripa it is standard procedure to inform all illegal immigrants about their rights to speak with their consulate. Zamarripa said she will check if they are already documenting this procedure.

Berry said he would not comment until the investigation is complete.