Detained man fights for U.S. citizenship

FILE - In this Aug. 17, 2018, file photo, people arrive before the start of a naturalization ceremony at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Miami Field Office in Miami. USCIS, The cash-strapped federal agency that oversees that nation's legal immigration system, scrapped plans Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, to furlough 13,000 employees, or nearly 70% of its workforce. The agency said it would maintain operations through September when the the fiscal year ends. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)

A man is suing for his release from jail in Willacy County after he tried to enter the United States claiming he was a U.S. citizen. According to his attorney, he was passed citizenship through his father, who a federal judge found to be a citizen in 2016.

Julio Cesar Ortiz, 44, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus through his attorney this week after he was taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials at the Gateway International Bridge in Brownsville.

Ortiz is detained at the Willacy County Detention Center in Raymondville. On Sept. 20, he attempted to cross into the U.S. at the Gateway Port of Entry in Brownsville by claiming to be a U.S. citizen.

Officials detained him, claiming that records showed his father’s delayed U.S. birth certificate was fraudulent.

However, Ortiz’s father Jose Benjamin was found to be a citizen after a 2015 trial in Brownsville. An order signed by U.S. District Judge Hilda Tagle dated March 10, 2016 found him to be a U.S. citizen by birth. The order was final and was not appealable.

But, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State did not clear the information claiming Jose Ortiz’s allegedly fraudulent birth certificate from their records, using that information to detain Julio Ortiz and criminally prosecute him.

Instead of reviewing his claim to citizenship or contacting the family’s attorney, CBP placed Ortiz under an expedited order of removal and charged him with illegal reentry.

His attorney Jaime Diez said that leading up to Ortiz’s decision to seek entry into the United States, he had appeared multiple times before the U.S. Consulate in Matamoros to apply for a passport.

Officials at the consulate failed to even review a letter from Diez explaining his client’s claim for citizenship, he wrote in the petition.

Although Julio Ortiz was born in Mexico his father was physically present in the United States for at least 10 years prior to his birth, five of those after his father was 14, which meets the requirements for citizenship.

Records show that Julio Ortiz first went to the consulate in June 2016, just three months after the family would have realized that Ortiz had actually been a U.S. citizen his entire life. After his application was rejected, he returned in January 2017 and filed the same application, which contained evidence from a federal lawsuit proving that he was passed citizenship through his U.S. citizen father.

Testimony in Jose Ortiz’s 2015 trial confirmed that DOS revoked his passport because they didn’t believe he was born in Texas, causing him to sue the government in federal court to prove he was.

Diez proved in the trial that not only was Jose Ortiz born in Texas in 1952, but he was baptized in Texas and lived in Brownsville with a godfather until he was seven. After, he moved to Matamoros, then returned in 1964, living in the U.S. until 1997, then returned again in 2006.

The lawsuit is asking CBP; Port Director Tater Ortiz; Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; U.S. Attorney General William Barr, and the U.S. government to release Ortiz and remove any “flag” that suggests he or his father are not U.S. citizens.

Additionally Ortiz seeks a declaration finding that the defendants violated his rights under the Fifth Amendment, and that a preliminary injunction is issued releasing him from custody.

esheridan@brownsvilleherald.com