A naturalized U.S. citizen was awarded a $55,000 settlement after she was falsely arrested, detained and threatened with deportation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers.
Guadalupe Plascencia sued the U.S. government and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department in December and was awarded a $55,000 settlement last week, The New York Times reported Monday.
The county agreed to pay $35,000 and the federal government agreed to pay $20,000, according to a statement from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which represented Plascencia, 60, in her lawsuit claiming her detention violated her constitutional rights.
She had lived in California as a naturalized citizen for more than three decades while working at a beauty salon and raising her family, the Times reported.
Originally from Mexico, she became a naturalized citizen in May 1998.
Plascencia was detained in March 2017 after she was in a car accident in Ontario, a city about 35 miles east of Los Angeles, according to the lawsuit obtained by the newspaper.
She and her daughter went to the Ontario Police Department to retrieve her registered gun from the car and was told she had a 10-year outstanding warrant for disobeying an order to appear in court for a different case.
She was fingerprinted, chained around the waist and spent the night in a detention center, the Times reported.
Police officials told her to sign a document notifying ICE that she was being released from custody. She asked why a citizen would have to sign ICE-related documents and was told it was a condition of her release.
When she was allowed to leave the detention facility, she was immediately arrested by two ICE officers.
The deputy at the detention center “directed Ms. Plascencia to wait in the cell as a ruse to delay Ms. Plascencia’s departure,” the lawsuit obtained by the Times argues.
She was brought to an ICE field station in San Bernardino while handcuffed. There she asked for permission to have her daughter bring her passport, but an ICE agent reportedly told her “you’re nothing.”
Plascencia was released when her daughter was allowed to provide her mother’s documentation.
ICE told the newspaper that the agency would never knowingly take action or detain an individual if there was evidence proving citizenship.
“Should such information come to light, the agency will take immediate action to address the matter,” the department said in an email to the newspaper.
The sheriff’s office did not immediately reply to the Times’s request for comment.
The lawsuit said Plascencia is “far from the only U.S. citizen that ICE has wrongfully arrested and detained.”
“These are ‘on the book’ citizens but ICE’s records of who is a naturalized citizen are incomplete,” Adrienna Wong, the ACLU attorney who represented Plascencia, told the Times.
Wong told the newspaper that defendants in the lawsuit argued that Plascencia was held on a detainer because her name was similar to someone else.
A Los Angeles Times investigation published earlier this year found that ICE agents have repeatedly wrongly targeted and arrested U.S. citizens.
Official figures provided to the Times show that the agency has released more than 1,480 people from custody since 2012 after investigating claims that they were U.S. citizens.
Levy Jaen, a father of four, was held in a New Jersey ICE detention facility for nearly two years as his attorneys argued with federal prosecutors over how immigration is passed from parents to child.
He was released in April when the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed his citizenship and ordered for him to be released.
BY MORGAN GSTALTER – 10/30/18