On July 5, 1996, Duarnis Perez was convicted in federal court in New York of manufacturing and delivering heroin and was deported to the Dominican Republic, the country of his birth.
On February 21, 2000, Perez, 27, was arrested in New York when he tried to re-enter the United States. He pleaded guilty on May 31, 2000, to a charge of illegal entry and was sentenced to 57 months in prison.
On April 20, 2004, after completing his sentence, Perez met with an official of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement to begin his deportation proceedings. At the meeting, he was informed that he was a citizen of the United States and could not be deported.
Unbeknownst to Perez, he had become a naturalized citizen in 1988 at age 15 when his mother became a naturalized citizen.
In January 2005, Perez filed a petition to vacate his conviction for illegal entry based on the evidence of his citizenship.
On August 15, 2006, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Kahn ruled that the prosecution had violated Perez’s constitutional rights by failing to disclose his citizenship when it prosecuted him in 2000 for illegal entry. The judge granted Perez’s motion and vacated the conviction.
– Maurice Possley