CORRECTION: A previous edition of this story cited Jay Weselmann, one of the defendants to the lawsuit, as the director of ICE’s Durham Field Office who is responsible for all of North Carolina’s ICE operations. While the lawsuit describes Weselmann in that language, Weselemann is actually the Durham field office director for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, another branch of the Department of Homeland Security. Weselmann is not responsible for ICE operations. We regret the error.
Federal law enforcement officials in Cary sent a man to prison for two years on immigration charges even though he was a U.S. citizen, according to a recent lawsuit.
Wayne Gray filed the 17-page complaint earlier this month in the U.S. District of Connecticut, where he now lives. He alleges that Cary agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, otherwise known as ICE, should have known he wasn’t subject to deportation.
A native of the Bahamas, Gray had been held in a federal prison in Pamlico County for 744 days. He was released last December, after the government dismissed its indictment and a North Carolina federal judge determined he was innocent.
Gray came to the United States in 1982. He essentially acquired his citizenship in 1990, at the age of 16, when his father became naturalized.
Two years later, Gray was convicted of first-degree robbery in Connecticut. After serving nearly five years in prison, he was deported to Jamaica in 1998; the reasons are unclear, but it’s possible that Gray never realized he was a U.S. citizen.
By 2006, Gray had returned to the U.S. That year he was charged with identity theft, but apparently never showed up in court. In 2012, he was arrested on an outstanding warrant in Fayetteville. After his fingerprints indicated that he’d previously been deported, he was charged by ICE with illegal reentry into the country and placed in immigration custody for two years.
Gray lists as defendants to the lawsuit the two Cary ICE agents who signed his alien arrest warrant, along with Jay Weselmann, the Durham field office director for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The day before Gray’s immigration charges were dropped last year, Weselmann sent him a letter stating: “Our records indicate you derived United States citizenship from your United States citizen father on January 19, 1990. Although it has been determined that you effectively became a U.S. citizen on January 19, 1990 the processing of your case will not be entirely complete until you appear and take the oath of allegiance. Please advise this office when you will be available to attend an oath ceremony and you will be scheduled for the next available ceremony.”
Gray interprets this letter as an admission from the Department of Homeland Security that the ICE agents knew, or should have known, that he was a U.S. citizen when they arrested him.
Gray says he has not received an apology from ICE. He is suing on the grounds of unreasonable seizure, due process, equal protection, false arrest and imprisonment, malicious prosecution, negligence and negligent/intentional infliction of emotional distress.