NIIC Stories of Detention & Deportation

Written by Daniel Merritt ’13


“ I spent the Prime of my Life defending the Constitution of the United States of America” “ I try not to say it too much, but that’s what I’m still doing today”

– Rick Covington


One of the most inspiring moments at this past week’s National Immigrant Integration conference in Seattle was the story of Rick Covington and Elizabeth Ruiz. Elizabeth was detained because she had “lied to a police officer and failed to pay her train fare.” Elizabeth was detained for over two months at an ICE holding facility and prepared for deportation. Rick Covington is a retiree of the U.S. Navy who met Elizabeth in 2005. He became reacquainted with her when Rick moved to Vancouver. Rick was so moved by her unjust arrest and separation from her family that it brought him into the immigrant rights movement. He helped found the Vancouver branch of One America.

Rick and Elizabeth’s story really allowed me to understand the importance of my own research and why I’m collecting interviews in Walla Walla. Stories have amazing power to move people. They allow us to step into someone else’s shoes and share their experience in their own words. But they are more then emotional experiences. People’s personal stories present information that would never otherwise come to light – narratives have immense power.

Elizabeth and Rick’s story got me thinking about what kind of concrete policy suggestions I might be able to draw out of people’s stories. In Elizabeth’s story I think one thing that clearly needs to be changed is ICE’s policy on detaining people. It is simply unacceptable that someone can be detained without contact with their family for two months. One thing that I intend to investigate further in my research in Walla Walla is how long people are being held for in detention facilities. Even if someone is being prepared for deportation, I think there must be a better option then detaining them in isolation.

Rick’s resolve that he is still defending the United States Constitution has also sparked a new component of my research. I now want to see if there is actually a Constitutional argument for the reform of Secure Communities and ICE detention policy under the Due Process Clause of the 5th Ammendment.

I hope that the coming weeks allow me to answer some of the questions that Elizabeth and Rick’s story brought before me, and I also hope that my research sparks similar questions in the minds of others.


Check out Elizabeth and Rick’s story on the Freedom from Fear website

Also check out the OneAmerica Blogpost

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