Complaint Against CBP Abuses Following President Trump’s Travel Ban

On February 6, 2017, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic filed a letter with the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General (OIG), detailing the systemic abuses and violations of the rights of individuals lawfully entering the United States through airports in the days following the issuance of President Trump’s January 27, 2017 executive order (“Executive Order”). This Executive order suspended entry into the United States for individuals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The complaint to OIG contains 26 declarations from both noncitizens—including long-term LPRs—and attorneys about abuses at the hands of CBP. As the declarations discuss, both new arrivals with valid visas and long-time U.S. residents were detained for excessive periods, denied access to attorneys even after a court ordered CBP to provide access to counsel, and pressured into giving up their valid visas. The organizations conclude by calling on CBP to end its policy of detaining immigrants without allowing them access to counsel.

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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

Ramirez-Rangel, et al. v. Kitsap County, et al.

Ramirez-Rangel, et al. v. Kitsap County, et al., No. 12-2-09594-4 (Wash. Super. Ct., filed Jan. 31, 2012, decided Aug. 16, 2013)

Three individuals brought this lawsuit against Kitsap County and two Kitsap County deputy sheriffs for false arrest and violations of the Washington State Constitution.

Plaintiffs Samuel Ramirez Rangel, Leticia Gonzalez Santiago, and Jose Solis Leon were harvesting shellfish one February evening in 2010 when two Kitsap County deputy sheriffs noticed them speaking Spanish. The deputies waited for the group to exit the beach and followed their truck, eventually pulling them over to allegedly investigate a defective headlight and their shellfish licenses. Although the deputies resolved all issues relating to the headlight and shellfish, they prolonged the traffic stop to question the plaintiffs about their immigration status. The deputies proceeded to call U.S. Border Patrol to inform them they had stopped some individuals they suspected of having immigration issues, offering to detain them until Border Patrol could arrive. The deputies then called for additional law enforcement assistance and, after ordering the plaintiffs to sit in their truck, the officers kept the truck surrounded until Border Patrol agents arrived at the scene.

The court dismissed the false arrest claim but held that local law enforcement officers violate Article 1, Section 7 of the Washington State Constitution when they prolong a detention to question individuals about their immigration status, citizenship status, and/or country of origin. The court clarified that even when officers have reasonable suspicion or probable cause to seize someone for a legitimate reason unrelated to immigration enforcement, they are constitutionally forbidden from extending a detention to interrogate that detainee as to her or his immigration status once the officers have decided not to arrest that person for the original offense.

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Counsel: Northwest Immigrant Rights Project | American Civil Liberties Union of Washington State | Stoel Rives LLP

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.

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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