Davino Watson, a U.S. citizen who was held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement for almost 3 1/2 years, is not eligible to the $82,500 in damages awarded by a district judge, The Daily Beast reports.
Watson came to America from Jamaica when he was 14 in 1998 to live with his father and stepmother in New York. His father became a U.S. citizen in 2002, making his son a citizen under the Child Citizenship Act of 2000. In 2008, Watson completed a Shock program for nonviolent offenders after he pled guilty to selling cocaine.
Immediately after he completed the program, Watson was arrested by ICE officials despite telling them of his citizenship, and despite speaking with agent Erik Andren who had information that listed Watson's parents names and correctly listed him as a citizen.
Watson then appeared in immigration court, where he had no right to a court-appointed attorney. He wrote a hand-written letter to immigration authorities, including his father's naturalization certificate, and telling officials of his citizen status. Eventually he was released with no money and no explanation in Alabama.
A New York district judge ruled that Watson was "badly treated by government employees. He deserves a letter of apology from the United States in addition to damages. But the court is not empowered to order this courtesy."
The judge did award Watson $82,500 in damages for "regrettable failures of the government," but an appeals court ruled that Watson is not eligible for that money since the statute of limitations expired while he was in ICE custody.
"There is no doubt that the government botched the investigation into Watson's assertion of citizenship, and that as a result a U.S. citizen was held for years in immigration detention and was nearly deported," the court ruled, according to NPR. "Nonetheless, we must conclude that Watson is not entitled to damages from the government."
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