Riley v. USA and Unknown INS Officers - Fact Sheet: INS Harassment and Detention of Richard Riley

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
October 17, 2000 12:00 am

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DAY ONE: January 13, 1998
John F. Kennedy International Airport
Approximately 8:30 p.m.


Richard Riley, an 18-year old freshman at Syracuse University, arrives at Kennedy International Airport from Jamaica after a Christmas visit with his mother, who resides there. Despite proper documentation of his lawful permanent resident status and American embassy examination of his documents before he boarded the plane in Jamaica, INS officers begin interrogation. During much of this interrogation one of Riley’s ankles is shackled to a bench.

INS officers ask Riley who “put him up” to this “fraud” and say his paperwork “had been an inside job.” Riley shows them his social security card, the stub of his work permit, a letter from his attorney explaining his legal status, University ID and financial aid documents, his ATM card and the complete contents of his wallet as additional proof of his lawful status. Riley explains that he had been in foster care and provides telephone numbers of his group home leader and his social worker.

“I don’t give a f— if you are in foster care or on the streets,” one officer tells the student. Riley asks if he can speak to a lawyer or someone who might understand his legal situation. He is told, “You’re not in America…You’re in Jamaica…We’re your judge and jury.” When Riley inquires about international law and guidelines, INS officers tell him, “we process everything — everything you say to us, this is it.”

Contrary to official INS regulations, officers never attempt to verify any information Riley provides to them by calling his social worker, Syracuse University, or his lawyer.

Riley is continuously questioned about his allegedly fake documents. One officer laughs and tells him that the only way Jamaicans can get a green card is if they “jerked chicken well” or “mopped the floor well.”

Riley again asks to speak to a lawyer or someone who would understand his legal status. The officer becomes angry and yells and curses at Riley, saying that he does not even deserve to be in jail and that “his ass would be on the next flight to Jamaica.”

It is approximately midnight when officers take Riley’s fingerprints and escort him to another room where they invasively physically strip-search him.

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