On the morning of June 2, 2017, Odette Dureland woke to a loud knock on the door of the one-story bungalow that she shares with her husband and her children. She was recovering from minor surgery, so her 26-year-old daughter, Rebecca, rose to open the door. Outside, there was a group of federal agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Rebecca was confused: Everyone in her family was a citizen. She told the officers there must be a mistake. They told Rebecca there wasn’t; they had a warrant for the arrest of her mother. One officer ordered Odette to dress and then led her out of the house and into a government vehicle.

At that time, Odette, Gilbert and Rebecca had been American citizens for five years. They had lived in the United States for more than two decades, since political violence in their native Haiti forced them to flee in the mid-1990s.


But then, the knock on the door. The officers were agents from Homeland Security Investigations, a sprawling investigative unit within Immigration and Customs Enforcement. A week earlier, they told Odette, she had been indicted in federal court in Tampa. The Justice Department claimed that in 1997, before her husband filed his asylum claim, Odette applied under a different identity; her fingerprints and photograph were part of the application for Enite Alindor, a last name close to her mother’s maiden name. After that application was filed, no one ever again appeared to pursue it. An immigration judge ordered “Alindor” deported in absentia.


The prosecution of naturalized United States citizens like Odette Dureland is a sign, immigrant advocates fear, of a new and gathering storm for immigration policy in the Trump era. For decades, the debate over immigration in the United States has centered on who should be allowed to enter the country and who should be allowed to stay; citizens like Dureland have largely been exempted from that debate. But amid the Trump administration’s growing stridency on immigration, that may be changing. “We have always focused on those who have done something terrible,” a former Justice Department attorney told me. “If that’s now changing, if we’re going after people who did nothing of note, or whose wrong caused no harm, it means they’re going after citizenship.”

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