A Denali Climber’s Experience Being Detained by ICE
July 15, 2019Shahid Haque
Ibrahim Cetindemir was pulled off his train and detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents in Montana while making his way back home to North Dakota
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On June 24, after successfully summiting both Denali and Mount Rainier, in Alaska and Washington, respectively, Cetindemir was pulled off his train and detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents in Malta, Montana, while making his way back home to Williston, North Dakota, where he works as a server and part-time photographer. Cetindemir, 28, who with his family fled threats of violence in Guatemala to come to the United States 15 years ago, is a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a policy that grants undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children temporary reprieve from deportation, along with work permits and the ability to apply for a Social Security number.
Centindemir says that two CBP agents boarded the train and asked each passenger for their citizenship status. He told them that he’s a DACA recipient and presented documentation, including his driver’s license and work permit. “I just don’t think that they were too sure of what DACA was to begin with,” he says. “And I just knew I was going to get stopped at the following station.”
The agents disembarked, and Cetindemir continued on the train for an hour or so, but at the next stop, four to six CBP agents boarded his car and escorted him off, he says. “I really wasn’t worried at all, because I knew I had my DACA and that it was valid,” Cetindemir says. “I knew for a fact I didn’t have any criminal activity and my record was clean. So I just thought it was going to be an inconvenience. I assumed that they were going to take me to their office or their station, verify that my DACA is valid, and just let me go.”
But instead, the agents looked through their databases and found a deportation order from 2014, issued after Cetindemir’s family members overstayed their visas and were twice denied requests for asylum. Cetindemir chose to remain in the country illegally, and was granted DACA status in 2016. “I said, ‘Well, if you actually do have that, my DACA should supersede the deportation order.’ And that’s when they said, ‘We’re 99 percent sure that DACA doesn’t work like that, and more than likely you will be deported.’ I thought that sounded a bit sketchy, and I that’s when I started to get worried.”
According to Helena, Montana, immigration attorney Shahid Haque, Cetindemir’s gut was right. The 2012 DACA memo issued by the Department of Homeland Security states that even individuals who have received a final order of deportation are eligible for DACA status. Haque says that in the wake of the illegal-immigration crackdown, however, people with final removal orders have become “easy pickings” for the CBP and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents looking to comply with stricter policies, and in Cetindemir’s case, they appeared confused by federal directives and the DACA process. “It seems like he got caught up in an issue where Border Patrol and ICE believed they could try to strip him of his DACA status for apparently no reason other than that he had a prior deportation,” Haque says. “That would seem an egregious overreach.” (A CBP spokesperson declined to comment on these specific accusations.)