Thu, Aug 09, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Family recounts trauma of `deported' US citizen

AP , LOS ANGELES

A wrongly deported US citizen who was missing for nearly three months in Mexico ate out of garbage cans, bathed in rivers and was repeatedly turned away by US border agents when he tried to return to California, his family said.

Pedro Guzman, 29, was picked up at the Calexico border crossing over the weekend and released to his family on Tuesday.

Guzman was shaking, stuttering and appeared traumatized, his family said at a news conference. The family said it planned to seek medical attention for Guzman, who was not at the news conference.

"They took him whole, but only returned half of him to me," his mother, Maria Carbajal, said in Spanish while crying. "The government is responsible for this."

The family had been searching for Guzman in Tijuana since he was deported on May 11.

They said Guzman told them on Tuesday that he had tried to return to the US several times but was turned away. He walked more than 160km to Calexico, the family said.

"The border guards told him to `stop playing around,'" said Michael Guzman, the man's brother.

Authorities and the family have presented conflicting versions of how Guzman was deported.

He served about 20 days of a 120-day jail term for a misdemeanor trespassing violation when he was deported to Mexico, authorities said. Immigration and sheriff's officials have said Guzman told them he was an illegal immigrant and turned over to media the voluntary deportation papers allegedly signed by Guzman.

The family said Guzman was mentally disabled -- a claim the government has contested -- and was possibly confused by the paperwork. Guzman's relatives sued the Department of Homeland Security and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department in federal court in June, claiming Guzman was an American and had been wrongfully deported.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit, has said it has a copy of Guzman's birth certificate showing he was born at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center.

In the lawsuit, the family said he was asked about his immigration status in jail and responded that he was born in California.

Sometime after that, the Sheriff's Department identified him as a non-citizen, obtained his signature for voluntary removal from the US and turned him over to US immigration for deportation.

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