The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California has filed administrative complaints against Orange County and the cities of Tustin and Huntington Park because they say local police and sheriff's deputies have illegally stopped, interrogated and detained residents for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.
That, the ACLU says, violates the California Values Act, which limits cooperation between local police and ICE agents, and prohibits local law enforcement from asking people about their immigration status.
Their complaints detail two specific stops that happened in July 2019:
- Kelvin Hernandez Roman was pulled over in Tustin because officers said his car windows were tinted too dark. During questioning, the officers asked him about his legal status. Roman told them the truth, that he is in the country illegally. He was detained, sent to jail and transferred to the Adelanto ICE Processing Center in San Bernardino, where he remains to this day.
- Jose Maldonado Aguilar was arrested by Huntington Park Police for being drunk in public. According to the ACLU, he was detained longer than someone would normally be for that offense, in order to give ICE enough time to send agents to pick him up just as he was being released from custody. He is currently out of immigrant detention after posting bail.
Neither man was ultimately charged by authorities for their original offense and the ACLU says these two are not the only examples, noting that between January 2018 and August 2019, Huntington Park police released 29 people to ICE.
In a statement, ACLU senior staff attorney Jessica Karp Bansal said,
"When police and sheriffs detain local residents for ICE, it has devastating effects for their families and their communities. It is also illegal."
County and city officials insist that their police and sheriff's departments comply with all aspects of the California Values Act.
Tustin police Lt. Andrew Birozy told the Orange County Register:
"It's not our practice or policy to ask about immigration status during a car stop or any other contact we have with a member of the community."
The Orange County Sheriff's Department said:
"OCSD strongly agrees with those who argue that local law enforcement should not be enforcing immigration law. We have never, do not, and will not arrest individuals on the street for violation of immigration law. It is not our charge and doing so could hinder the relationships we have worked hard to develop with the immigrant communities we serve."
The ACLU says the incidents amounted to 'false imprisonment' and has caused severe emotional distress for the men and their families and is looking for damages of $100,000 for each, as well as a 'U visa certification.' The U visa is set aside for victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity. If they are granted a U visa, then the men could apply for a green card to stay in the country legally.