When Maria Gomez confirmed up late one December afternoon at a Grand Rapids, Michigan, jail to choose up her son, an American-born Marine who served in Afghanistan, the deputies advised her one thing that, frankly, made no sense.
“Your son was simply despatched with immigration,” she remembers the deputies telling her. “He’s of their fingers.”
It should be a mistake, she advised them. “My son doesn’t have something to do with immigration. He’s a US citizen,” she mentioned. “They mentioned ‘we don’t know something about that. He’s of their fingers now.’ It virtually gave me a coronary heart assault.”
When she returned to the jail’s car parking zone, she noticed him enter a white van and be pushed away.
Her son, Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, had served in Afghanistan as a lance corporal from 2011 to 2014 and returned to the US affected by post-traumatic stress dysfunction (PTSD). He’s had episodes the place he’ll disappear for days, and nobody in his household will know the place he’s gone.
It occurred once more Nov. 21, when Ramos-Gomez was arrested on suspicion of making an attempt to begin a hearth in a stairwell at a Grand Rapids hospital and making an attempt to achieve the ability’s helipad, in line with his attorneys and native legislation enforcement. Ramos-Gomez, 27, pleaded responsible to a trespassing cost and was ordered launched on Dec. 14 on his personal recognizance to await sentencing, his attorneys mentioned.
As a substitute, the Kent County Sheriff’s Workplace held him for greater than an hour so he may very well be picked up by one other county that transports and detains people for ICE.
Chuck DeWitt, undersheriff for the Kent County Sheriff’s Workplace, mentioned that his officers had adopted procedures and that all the things in regards to the case appeared routine. He regrets what occurred to Ramos-Gomez however says that it was ICE, not the sheriff’s division, that made the final word resolution to determine him as a goal.
“It sounds very harsh however there isn’t something we might’ve accomplished otherwise on this scenario that might have prevented that,” he mentioned. “It’s regretful however beneath these circumstances, I don’t know the place we might have prevented that.”
ICE put the blame squarely on Ramos-Gomez, saying that when ICE officers interviewed him in jail he claimed he was “a international nationwide illegally current within the US.” Due to that, ICE requested the sheriff’s division to carry him after he was launched from native custody, and the sheriff’s division complied.
The ACLU of Michigan, which has taken up Ramos-Gomez’s case and has known as for an investigation into the detention, mentioned ICE’s assertion opened up many questions.
“This reveals how flimsy the proof is that ICE depends on to deport folks from this nation,” mentioned Miriam Aukerman, a senior legal professional with the ACLU of Michigan, who mentioned the group was investigating whether or not Ramos-Gomez had actually advised ICE he wasn’t a US citizen.
Ramos-Gomez had a US passport and identification that famous his veteran standing, Aukerman mentioned.
“It’s appalling that a remark by a mentally unwell particular person is sufficient to get you deported. What sort of investigation is that?”
The ACLU legal professional additionally questioned why ICE had interviewed him in jail.
“If his identify is John Smith, ICE isn’t interviewing him,” she mentioned.
As a result of Ramos-Gomez had been transferred to ICE on a Friday, his household was unable to safe his launch till the next Monday, when his lawyer known as ICE officers.
“I don’t have phrases to say this as a result of I really feel like they don’t care,” Gomez advised BuzzFeed Information. “They don’t care that my son served this nation.”
Aukerman mentioned the incident mirrored a bigger drawback with immigration enforcement.
“That is what immigration enforcement has come to on this nation. It’s so indiscriminate that we take individuals who served our nation and attempt to deport them,” Aukerman mentioned. “It is a tragedy. He risked his life and psychological well being for our nation, got here again and didn’t get the companies he wants, and now ICE is making an attempt to deport him. It’s outrageous and appalling.”
“His immigration legal professional mentioned to ICE: Right here is his navy file, beginning certificates, and ICE was like: ‘Oops, we obtained a US citizen,’” she added. ICE officers mentioned that when they obtained the knowledge they approved his launch, and no additional motion might be taken.
The case highlights what advocates imagine is the issue with cooperation between some sheriff’s departments and ICE. When an individual is arrested, fingerprints are in contrast with prints in federal databases that alert immigration authorities if the particular person is needed. It’s at this level that ICE officers will usually request a “detainer” to carry the person till their officers can present up and take them into custody.
Whereas in some areas, “sanctuary” insurance policies restrict cooperation between native authorities and ICE, that’s not the case in Kent County. The sheriff’s division has an settlement with ICE to carry people for as much as three days and to be reimbursed for the additional detention.
The Michigan jail additionally permits ICE entry inside the facility to interview inmates, like Ramos-Gomez, at any time when they’d like. In sanctuary areas, like California, inmates should signal varieties consenting to an interview with ICE officers and are advised that an legal professional might be current with them.
DeWitt mentioned that his workplace had requested ICE to assessment its insurance policies so that a related scenario doesn’t occur.
DeWitt mentioned he nonetheless helps cooperation between federal and native legislation enforcement, saying such cooperation is critical to guard residents. However advocates see it otherwise, saying such cooperation really chills belief between legislation enforcement and immigrant communities.
For her half, Ramos-Gomez’s mom, who got here to the nation from Guatemala, mentioned that she won’t belief legislation enforcement any longer.
The case is indicative of the issues that may come up when such interactions are rampant, Aukerman mentioned.
“It’s horrible however it’s the predictable consequence of this blind willingness at hand folks over to ICE with out wanting,” she mentioned, noting that ICE makes use of “administrative” warrants and never warrants signed by judges to request and maintain people. “If ICE says ‘please, hand him over’ that isn’t sufficient. That’s not what we must be doing.”
ICE has detained Americans up to now, together with a Queens man whose case was detailed by BuzzFeed Information. Late final yr, an American-born man sued ICE for detaining him.
“There’s typically advanced questions on citizenship, however on this case it’s 100% apparent. He was born in a US hospital,” Aukerman mentioned. “It displays an extremely sloppy method by ICE.”
The ACLU despatched a letter Wednesday to the Kent County Sheriff’s Workplace and the county Board of Fee demanding an investigation. DeWitt mentioned that a US passport was not listed as one in all Ramos-Gomez’s possessions however that always objects usually are not marked by deputies.
The county’s settlement with ICE is up in September, and Ramos-Gomez’s case might be an element within the decision-making on whether or not to proceed with it or not, DeWitt mentioned.
In the meantime, Ramos-Gomez’s household is simply comfortable he’s house and never in ICE custody or deported to Guatemala, the place his household had initially come from. His mom mentioned she couldn’t sleep the weekend he was in ICE custody.
However when he was launched Dec. 17, she waited for him within the detention heart car parking zone. When he walked out of custody, they instantly hugged.
“I can’t imagine they did this to you, son,” she advised him. “I’m sorry.”
“I do know,” he advised her. “They didn’t imagine me.”