Martinez-Castro, et al. v. Village of Wakeman, et al.

Martinez-Castro, et al. v. Village of Wakeman, et al., U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio, Western Division (N.D. Ohio; 3:12-cv-2364)

In 2012, ABLE filed a federal court complaint on behalf of two Hispanic married couples from Norwalk, Ohio.  The married couples, traveling in the same car and returning from work at a local nursery, were stopped by the Wakeman Police Department early one morning.  Without reasonable suspicion or cause, the Wakeman police officer contacted the U.S. Border Patrol.  When Border Patrol agents arrived at the scene, they proceeded to interrogate and verbally harass the occupants of the car.  The individuals were aggressively removed from the car, handcuffed and taken to the Sandusky Bay Station.  At the station, the individuals were then placed in a room where they were harassed and interrogated by ten to twelve different agents over the course of the day.

The complaint filed against the Village of Wakeman and the U.S. Border Patrol alleges claims under the Fourth Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, Bivens claims against the individual Border Patrol agents and claims pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act.  The complaint alleges that the U.S. Border Patrol and the Wakeman Police Department have engaged in illegal profiling of Hispanics and seeks injunctive relief to prohibit the use of race as a motivating factor in stops and detentions.

Following extensive discovery, the court declined to dismiss all but one of Plaintiffs’ claims, finding that they stated a claim for relief and also that they satisfied the pleading standard set out in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678–89 (2009). Subsequently, the parties entered into settlement discussions and reached a resolution of the case in early 2014 in which each of the plaintiffs received $7,000.00 plus an additional amount in attorneys fees.

Vasquez-Palafox v. United States

Vasquez-Palafox v. United States U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio, Western Division (N.D. Ohio; 3:12-cv-2380)

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (Sixth Cir. 13-3599)

In a related case to Muñiz v. United States Border Patrol, ABLE filed a subsequent federal court complaint on behalf of an individual who was questioned by two Border Patrol Agents while walking down a street in Fremont, Ohio, after picking up his son at school.  The plaintiff believes he was targeted for questioning because he is Hispanic.  He alleges in his Federal Tort Claims Act case against the United States that two Border Patrol Agents committed the Ohio torts of assault, false imprisonment, deprivation of civil rights through ethnic intimidation, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.  In 2013, the federal district court judge granted the United States’ Motion for Summary Judgment.  The dismissal was appealed and, while pending in the Sixth Circuit, the parties were able to reach a settlement in which the Plaintiff received a nominal amount.

Saucedo-Carrillo, et al. v. United States

Saucedo-Carrillo, et al. v. United States, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio, Western Division (N.D. Ohio; 3:12-cv-2571)

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit  (Sixth Cir. 13-4502)

In a related case to Muñiz v. United States Border Patrol, ABLE filed a Federal Tort Claims Action on behalf of a mother and daughter who allege that a Border Patrol Agent profiled them for arrest because they are Hispanic.  The Plaintiffs were purchasing gasoline at a gas station in Norwalk, Ohio, when an Agent blocked their vehicle and started questioning them.  This lawsuit against the United States alleges the Border Patrol Agent committed the Ohio torts of assault, false imprisonment, deprivation of civil rights through ethnic intimidation, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.  In 2013, the federal district court judge granted a motion for summary judgment filed by the United States.  The Sixth Circuit, in a decision on August 13, 2015, affirmed the grant of summary judgment 2 -1, with the dissenting opinion stating that a factfinder could find that the Plaintiffs were falsely imprisoned before the Border Patrol Agent developed probable cause for an arrest.

On a related note, the Plaintiffs had been placed in removal proceedings.  The Immigration Judge found that their Fourth Amendment rights were violated by the conduct of the Border Patrol Agent, but the violation was not egregious.  The removal cases were administratively closed.

Ohio State University Moritz College of Law Civil Clinic and Advocates for Basic Legal Equality v. U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Ohio State University Moritz College of Law Civil Clinic and Advocates for Basic Legal Equality v. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio, Eastern Division (S.D. Ohio; 2:14-cv-2329), transferred to U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio, Western Division (N.D. Ohio; 3:15-cv-833)

The Ohio State University College of Law Civil Clinic and ABLE filed a FOIA request with U.S. Customs and Border Protection on August 18, 2014.  The requested documents focus on enforcement efforts of the Sandusky Bay Station (Ohio) of the U.S. Border Patrol, including apprehension and arrest records; records relating to cooperation between Border Patrol and local police; and records of any civil rights investigations against the Border Patrol.  When no timely response was received, the requesters filed a lawsuit against CBP in the S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division (Columbus).  The U.S. Attorney filed a motion to transfer the case to the Northern District of Ohio; the Plaintiffs opposed the motion.  The motion was granted and the case was transferred to Judge Jack Zouhary in the Northern District based on his prior handling of a series of cases against the Sandusky Bay Station of the U.S. Border Patrol.  The Defendant has, as of October 12, 2015, started a phased delivery of requested information.

Muniz-Muniz, et al. v. United States Border Patrol, et al.

Muniz-Muniz, et al. v. United States Border Patrol, et al., No. 09-02865 (N.D. Ohio, filed Dec. 10, 2009); No. 12-4419 (6th Cir.)

Fifteen individuals and two workers’ rights organizations brought this lawsuit to challenge Border Patrol (BP) agents and three local law enforcement agencies and their officers for their systematic racial profiling of Hispanic residents in three Ohio towns.  Plaintiffs have been stopped and questioned about their immigration status while driving, pumping gas, or walking their children home from school.  Plaintiffs allege that BP agents engaged in a pattern or practice of initiating these stops solely on the basis of their Hispanic appearance and did not have any reasonable suspicion or probable cause to suspect that they were present without authorization when they did so.  Additionally, the suit alleges that BP encouraged local law enforcement agencies to profile Hispanics and detain them for BP.

There have been considerable developments in this case since the original complaint was first filed in December 2009.  The parties have completed discovery; Plaintiffs have dismissed without prejudice their claims for monetary damages and claims against the federal agents in their individual capacity; and Plaintiffs have settled their claims against the three local law enforcement agencies for damages, attorney fees, and the adoption of non-discriminatory policing policies.  Additionally, Plaintiffs successfully appealed the lower court’s dismissal for lack of jurisdiction (sovereign immunity) to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.  In its December 2013 decision, the Sixth Circuit reversed and remanded the district court’s holding, concluding that § 702 of the Administrative Procedures Act conferred jurisdiction upon the court to consider the remaining claims in the suit—all non-monetary in nature—without being limited by the requirements established by § 704 of the Act.

Back in district court, Judge Jack Zouhary denied plaintiffs’ motion to compel discovery related to the use of racial slurs by Border Patrol. The court also refused to let plaintiffs add two Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) cases to the suit, which had been separately filed against the United States regarding the conduct of BP agents.

On February 24, 2016, Judge Zouhary found in favor of the defendants on all claims. The court held that plaintiffs failed to prove a Fifth Amendment violation of equal protection; that anecdotal evidence proffered by plaintiffs failed to amount to a “pattern or practice” of racially profiling Hispanics; and that Border Patrol agents’ use of the word “wetbacks” merely represented “isolated instances of poor judgment.” Furthermore, Judge Zahoury held that plaintiffs failed to establish a Fourth Amendment violation of the right against unreasonable search and seizure. Despite plaintiffs’ testimony that they believed that they were unable to leave during police interrogations, the court found that, in all cases, the encounters either did not constitute seizures or were lawful interrogations or seizures based on reasonable suspicion or probable cause.

Plaintiffs filed a notice of appeal to the Sixth Circuit on April 19, 2016.  Plaintiffs-Appellants filed their appeal brief on June 19, 2016.

Press:

Counsel: Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc. | Murray & Murray Co., L.P.A.

Contact: Mark Heller | ABLELAW | 419.255.0814 | mheller@ablelaw.org

FTCA Administrative Complaint Regarding Woman Who Suffered Stroke While in CBP Custody

FTCA Administrative Complaint Regarding Woman Who Suffered Stroke While in CBP Custody (filed Mar. 12, 2013)

Ms. Takem-aishetu is a 63-year-old woman who has lived in New York for eight years.  She works as the primary caregiver of a 96-year-old disabled widow, supports her orphaned grandson, and always pays her taxes.  She is a devout religious woman who has no criminal record.  In March 2011, Ms. Takem-aishetu was returning home from a cousin’s funeral in Minnesota when her bus made a routine stop in Toledo, Ohio.  There, a Border Patrol (BP) agent boarded the parked bus, a gun visible in his holster, and questioned her about her immigration status. Ms. Takem-aishetu was arrested and placed in a BP vehicle where she was forced to wait for eight hours without food and water.  When she asked to use the bathroom, an agent escorted her at gunpoint and waited outside the open door.

Ms. Takem-aishetu finally was taken to the Sandusky Bay Processing Center close to midnight, where she spent another several hours in questioning and processing, her leg shackled to a bench.  Eventually, she was placed in a small cell with room only to sit.  After repeatedly asking agents to use the bathroom, Ms. Takem-aishetu could wait no longer and urinated on herself.  She was forced to sit all night in her urine-soaked jeans until being transferred to immigration detention at the county jail the next morning.

Ms. Takem-aishetu was extremely embarrassed about her treatment by BP and ICE agents.  She feared their threats to deport her, knowing that she would be abandoning her 96-year-old employer without care and her orphaned grandson without any financial support.  Suffering from intense stress and fear, Ms. Takem-aishetu fell ill while at the jail with nausea, dizziness, and weakness in the left side of her body.  At the hospital, doctors determined that she had suffered an acute stroke.

Ms. Takem-aishetu never had any health problems before her detention.  After an extensive medical workup, her primary care physician determined that she did not exhibit any of the risk factors for a stroke, and that it was directly connected to the tremendous stress of her detention and treatment.  Ms. Takem-aishetu continues to suffer from the lasting effects of the stroke, with near-constant pain, numbness, and partial paralysis on the left side of her body.  She relies on a cane to walk, and her speech is impaired; these changes have severely affected her way of life.  Ms. Takem-aishetu seeks damages for her mistreatment.

The government failed to respond to the administrative complaint within the six-month deadline. Ms. Takem-aishetu decided not to file a federal complaint.

Press:

Counsel: Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic, Benjamin N. Cardozo Law School

Contact: Zsuzsanna Toth | 212. 790. 0411 | toth@yu.edu

Betsy Ginsberg | 347. 683. 2387 | betsy.ginsberg@yu.edu