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James Makowski, U.S. Citizen Mistaken For Undocumented Immigrant, Sues Government

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A Chicago-area U.S. citizen is suing the feds after he was reportedly held for two months in a maximum security prison when he was misidentified as an undocumented immigrant.

James Makowski, who was born in India and adopted into a U.S. family at a young age, was sentenced to four months at drug treatment program after he pleaded guilty in 2010 to a felony charge of selling heroin, according to a report by the LA Times. However, when a fingerprint search incorrectly identified the Chicago resident as an undocumented immigrant, he was instead sent to a maximum-security prison in Pontiac, Illinois. He was reportedly held there for two months before the mistake was corrected.

Now, Makowski is suing the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, alleging that their mistake was part of Secure Communities, according to ColorLines.com.

Secure Communities, the controversial federal program piloted by the Bush administration and implemented by the Obama Administration, aims to crack down on illegal immigration by mandating that local law enforcement send the fingerprints of those who have been arrested by local police to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

While the program started as a voluntary program which states could opt in and out of, it is now mandatory and will be implemented nationwide by 2013. Critics say the program promotes racial profiling due to a flawed implementation and violates Americans' right to privacy, while supporters believe it helps enforce immigration laws on the books and helps prioritize the deportation of criminal immigrants over non-criminals.

Governor of New York state, Andrew Cuomo attempted to opt out of the polarizing program. Just months after implementing Secure Communities, he rescinded the state's agreement to participate, citing concerns for immigrants:

"There are concerns about the implementation of the program as well as its impact on families, immigrant communities and law enforcement in New York," Cuomo wrote in a letter to the Department of Homeland Security. "As a result, New York is suspending its participation in the program."

While ICE told the LA Times they are unable to comment on Makowski's case, various immigration rights groups maintain that the sharing of fingerprint data of U.S. citizens carried out by Secure Communities is in violation of the Privacy Act, which establishes a code in which the government can collect data pertaining to U.S. citizens.

Makowski argues that his own case is an example of this sort of violation.

"I've been here my whole life," Makowski told the LA Times. "I was raised like an upper-middle-class American. But I didn't feel American when I had that detainer put on me."

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