Vargas Ramirez v. United States of America

Vargas Ramirez v. United States of America, No. 2:13-cv-02325 (W.D. Wash., filed Dec. 27, 2013)

Mr. Gustavo Vargas Ramirez brought this Federal Tort Claims Act lawsuit against the United States for false arrest, false imprisonment, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, and abuse of process arising from his unjustified arrest at the hands of Border Patrol (BP).

On June 23, 2011, Mr. Vargas was stopped by the Anacortes, Washington police, allegedly for failing to use his turn signal. He provided a valid license, registration, and proof of insurance. Despite this, the police officer called BP to check on Mr. Vargas’s immigration status. After failing to find any immigration or criminal history on Mr. Vargas, the BP agent asked the police officer to allow him to speak to Mr. Vargas directly, but Mr. Vargas refused to answer any of the agent’s questions without talking to a lawyer. The agent then instructed the police officer to detain Mr. Vargas, despite lacking any legal basis for doing so. Based on this request, the police officer transported Mr. Vargas, in handcuffs, to the city jail, where he waited in a cold prison cell until a BP agent arrived and took him to a nearby BP station. Once at the station, Mr. Vargas continued to refuse to answer any questions without a lawyer. The agents on duty ignored his efforts to assert his rights and attempted to pressure him into signing various documents without first explaining their contents to him. Mr. Vargas was eventually transferred to the Northwest Detention Center, where he was detained for almost ten weeks. His case was subsequently administratively closed.

The BP report of what transpired on June 23, 2011 contains blatant misrepresentations that purport to provide a legal justification for BP’s decision to have Mr. Vargas arrested, showing the agents involved knew their conduct was unlawful. The report wrongly states, for instance, that the Anacortes police officer called BP for help with interpretation issues and that a BP agent arrived at the scene of the traffic stop, where he took custody of Mr. Vargas after the latter admitted that he had been born in Mexico. Such an interaction never happened.

Mr. Vargas first filed formal administrative complaints against both the Anacortes Police Department and Border Patrol in mid 2013. He settled his claims against the Anacortes Police Department without going to trial. His complaint against Border Patrol went unanswered, however, and Mr. Vargas filed a complaint in the U.S. district court for the Western District of Washington seeking damages for the violations BP inflicted upon him. Following Mr. Vargas’s defeat of the government’s motion to dismiss or for summary judgment, the parties undertook discovery, after which they filed cross motions for summary judgment. On March 23, 2015, the district court entered an order granting Mr. Vargas’s motion for summary judgment with respect to the claims of false arrest and false imprisonment, and dismissed the secondary claims. The parties reached a settlement, agreeing to damages in the amount of $10,000. As a result of the settlement the district court issued a final order dismissing the claim on March 31, 2015.

Press: 

Counsel: Northwest Immigrant Rights Project | Bean Porter Hawkins PLLC

Contact: Matt Adams | NWIRP | 206.957.8611 | matt@nwirp.org

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