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.

Mendiola v. Department of Homeland Security

Mendiola v. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, Western Regional Office

In this individual right of action appeal before the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, Western Regional Office, Border Patrol Agent Froylan Mendiola challenged his removal from the Border Patrol and the agency’s efforts to require him to undergo a Fitness-for-Duty examination in retaliation for his protected activity as a whistleblower.  Mr. Mendiola, a sixteen-year Border Patrol veteran with a consistently excellent work performance record, reported incidents of racial profiling which he witnessed at the Murrieta Border Patrol Station in early 2012.  He was retaliated against as a result.

In a lengthy decision, the Board explains why Mr. Mendiola’s whistleblowing activities are protected, and details how Border Patrol took systematic steps to retaliate against Mr. Mendiola as a result.

Counsel: Anne Richardson | Hadsell Stormer | 866.457.2590

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. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision on August 24, 2017.

Press:

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

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

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.

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Counsel: Northwest Immigrant Rights Project | Bean Porter Hawkins PLLC

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

Sanchez, et al. v. U.S. Office of Border Patrol, et al.

Sanchez, et al. v. U.S. Office of Border Patrol, et al. No. 12-00735 (W.D. Wash., filed Apr. 26, 2012)

In this class action, three U.S. citizen plaintiffs challenged U.S. Border Patrol’s practice of routinely stopping vehicles on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula and interrogating occupants about their immigration status based solely on the occupants’ racial and ethnic appearance, in violation of their constitutional rights. On behalf of themselves and others who have been subjected to similar stops, the plaintiffs asked the court to issue an injunction ordering Border Patrol to halt all such stops until its agents on the Peninsula have received training and demonstrated, through testing, that they understand the constitutional and other legal requirements necessary to stop and detain an individual.

In September 2013, the plaintiffs and Border Patrol reached a settlement in which Border Patrol acknowledged that its agents on the Olympic Peninsula must base vehicle stops away from the border on reasonable suspicion that an individual may be involved in violating the law.

All Port Angeles Border Patrol agents will be required to receive an additional training in Fourth Amendment protections, including those related to vehicle stops. The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and requires any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause. In addition, for 18 months, Border Patrol will provide reports to plaintiffs’ attorneys documenting all stops in the Olympic Peninsula. Finally, Border Patrol also committed to complying with judicial decisions setting limits on stops and interrogations and to abiding by Department of Homeland Security guidance on the use of race or ethnicity in performing its duties.

Press:

Counsel: Northwest Immigrant Rights Project | American Civil Liberties Union of Washington State | Perkins Coie LLP

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