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INS Mistreatment of Legal Residents Prompts Lawsuit
by Carl R. Baldwin

The 1996 immigration law introduced a controversial provision called “expedited removal.” This permitted lower-level INS officers at ports of entry to make quick judgments about the legal status of arrivals, and, if in doubt, to order their immediate deportation without a hearing before an immigration judge. The officers were supposed to be trained to detect legal or illegal status, and to be attentive to an alien’s claim of a "credible fear" of persecution in his home country.

From its inception, however, the process witnessed dreadful abuses. One of these occurred in 1997, when a legal resident and national of Jamaica returned from a short visit home. Although he had documents proving that he was a legal resident, the inspecting officers jumped to the erroneous conclusion that the documents were false. The young man was then shackled like a dangerous criminal, detained, and repeatedly strip-searched for almost two days. As he remarked later, “I couldn’t believe that this was happening to me in America.”

The young immigrant’s ordeal is now the subject of a lawsuit against the INS in Federal Court in New York, with the support of the American Civil Liberties Union. It is shocking to find that the United States government can be responsible for the kind of violations of human rights that we associate with dictatorial regimes, not democracies.

About The Author

Carl R. Baldwin graduated from Columbia University Law School in 1980, and became a member of the New York State Bar a year later. He worked for three years with the New York City Law Department, and then entered solo practice in immigration law, which he has continued to the present. His work with clients has included asylum applications, deportation defense, visa processing, adjustment of status, and naturalization. He has also worked to implement special laws, such as the 1986 "amnesty" (The Immigration Reform and Control Act), and the 1998 Haitian reform act (The Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act). Mr. Baldwin is the author of Immigration News Monthly. He can be rached by e-mail at

He has written a book on immigration law, called "Immigration Questions and Answers," 1997, Allworth Press, 10 East 23rd Street, New York, NY 10010 (212) 777-8395. The book, which contains essential background information about how the immigration law works, can be ordered in both an English Edition and a Spanish version from