Villalobos et al. v. United States

Villalobos et al. v. United States, No. 0:21-cv-02233 (D. Minn., filed Oct. 11, 2021)

Plaintiff Kerlin Sanchez Villalobos and her younger sister are suing the United States for the severe abuse and mistreatment they suffered while they were held in immigration custody. In June 2019, they entered the United States seeking safety from violence and persecution in Honduras, and were arrested by CBP agents. At the time, Kerlin was sixteen and her sister was fourteen. After their arrest, Kerlin and her sister were taken to a CBP detention facility in Clint, Texas and held there for nine days, after which they were forcibly separated and transferred to different group homes operated by Southwest Key Programs, Inc.

At the facility in Clint, Texas, CBP officers and government contractors mistreated Plaintiffs in a variety of ways, including physically assaulting them, depriving them of adequate food and water, denying them access to necessary medical care and medication, forcing them to watch the mistreatment of other children, and forcing them to care for younger children. Officers forced the girls to lift their shirts to be searched in a non-private setting, and threw away medicine one of the sisters brought with her to treat a recent injury. According to the siblings, officers ordered them to control the younger children who were crying because they were separated from their families. One of the sisters was injured by an officer who kicked her repeatedly. Additionally, the Clint facility was reported to have subpar sanitation for the number of children held there, and an MSNBC video from 2019 revealed children caged like animals. According to an ABC news report, staff had no training on caring for children.

In spite of initially assuring the sisters they would not be separated, officers traumatically separated the sisters without explanation and transported them to separate group homes. Despite prior reports of abuse at the Texas group homes where the sisters were held, the U.S. government has continued to place children there. In total, Kerlin spent twenty days in detention, and her sister spent twenty-nine days. Plaintiffs seek compensatory damages for negligence, negligent undertaking, battery, and assault under Texas law via the Federal Tort Claims Act.

Documents:

Complaint

Counsel: Ian Bratlie,Teresa Nelson, Clare Diegel, and Paul Dimick (ACLU of Minnesota); Edgar Saldivar, Bernardo Rafael Cruz, and Angre Segura (ACLU of Texas); Jillian Kornblatt, Michael D. Stinson (Dorsey & Whitney LLP)

Contact: Claire Diegel | ACLU of Minnesota | 612-274-779 | cdiegel@aclu-mn.org

Wilwal v. Kelly

Wilwal, et al. v. Kelly, et al., No. 0:17-cv-02835 (D. Minn., filed July 13, 2017)

On July 13, 2017, the ACLU, the ACLU of Minnesota, and Robins Kaplan LLP brought suit on behalf of the Wilwal-Abdigani family, a family of six American citizens who were detained at a North Dakota port of entry for over ten hours when crossing back into the United States from Canada. When the family arrived at the border, CBP agents drew their weapons and handcuffed Abdisalam Wilwal, allegedly because his name appeared on a terrorism-related watchlist, which Mr. Wilwal believes was a wrongful placement. He was questioned for hours and ended up fainting while in custody due to the placement of his handcuffs. Agents allegedly questioned him for being a Muslim and demanded to know if he was involved with terrorism. When Mr. Wilwal’s teenage son called 911 and reported that he was being held against his will, CBP agents confiscated his phone and strip-searched him.

Mr. Wilwal and his family brought suit against CBP seeking declaratory and injunctive relief for violations of their constitutional rights, including the right against search and seizure and Mr. Wilwal’s right to due process because of his placement on a terrorism watchlist without any opportunity to challenge that placement. On October 12, 2017, the plaintiffs amended the complaint to add claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act for false imprisonment, assault, and battery. On November 8, 2017, the government moved to dismiss the case. Briefing was completed on the motion to dismiss on January 24, 2018.

On September 27, 2018 the court granted in part and denied in part the government’s motion to dismiss. Plaintiff’s claim alleging violation of substantive due process rights was dismissed with prejudice; and the government’s motion was denied in all other respects.

In May 2020, following successful settlement negotiations, the case was dismissed with prejudice.

Press coverage:

Counsel: ACLU Foundation; ACLU Foundation of Minnesota; Robins Kaplan LLP

Edwards v. United States of America

Edwards v. United States of America, No. 0:13-cv-02336-JRT-JJK (D. Minn., filed Aug. 26, 2013)

Adijat Edwards arrived at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport from Nigeria.  U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (“CBP”) officers detained her upon arrival.  The officers confiscated $4,000 worth of her jewelry and, days later, forced her to withdraw $1,200 in cash using her bank card.  The officers told Ms. Edwards that the money was necessary to pay for her return flight to Nigeria as part of expedited removal proceedings.

Edwards later sued the United States for the torts of conversion and negligence based on the CBP officers’ misconduct.  The United States filed a motion to dismiss, which Edwards opposed.  The Court granted the government’s motion in most respects, but allowed the claim for conversion of property to move forward.  Following the Court’s decision, the parties reached a settlement. The Department of Homeland Security brought Edwards back to the United States; thereafter, Edwards obtained her green card and recently naturalized.

Counsel: Richard L. Breitman | (612) 822-4724 | breitman@ix.netcom.co