A U.S. Citizen Is Suing ICE For Detaining Him

by Morgan Brinlee
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As President Donald Trump seeks to aggressively enforce and expand the nation's immigration laws in an effort to deport those residing in the country illegally, a U.S. citizen is suing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) in a case that highlights one of the largest challenges currently facing the country's immigration system. In a class action lawsuit filed March 27, Rony Chávez Aguilar alleges ICE violated his Constitutional rights by detaining him for close to three weeks without telling him what he'd been charged with or giving him a prompt hearing before a judge for the determination of probable cause. Bustle has reached out to ICE for comment on the lawsuit.

Charles Roth, a lawyer representing Aguilar in his lawsuit, told the Daily Beast that Guatemalan-born Aguilar had been arrested on drug charges in Kentucky in late February. The 32-year-old pleaded guilty and spent two weeks in a county jail. According to papers filed at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division, when it came time for his release, authorities reportedly had Aguilar transferred to an ICE-contracted detention center where he was told he have to await deportation proceedings. The problem? Aguilar has been a U.S. citizen since 2001 and entered the country legally as a "lawful permanent resident" in 1991.

According to Roth, Aguilar told ICE agents he was a U.S. citizen right away, but they allegedly told him to, "Tell it to the judge." Aguilar's lawsuit alleges he was "held in immigration custody for 18 days in pre-removal proceedings detention" without any probable cause to support his detention. Furthermore, Aguilar alleges he was not promptly brought before a judge and did not receive a judicial explanation of the charges against him. At the time his lawsuit was filed, no removal proceedings had been reported as initiated against Aguilar.

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In the lawsuit, Aguilar alleges ICE violated his constitutional rights as outlined in the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, which protect against arbitrary arrests and guarantees due process of law, by detaining him without prompt access to a judge. "[Aguilar's] predicament is not unique," papers filed as part of his lawsuit claim. "ICE Chicago detains thousands of people every year under similar circumstances."

Indeed a U.S. citizen in Montrose, Colorado, was reportedly searched and detained for three days in late January after ICE agents allegedly claimed the Hispanic man didn't look like someone who had been born in that county. Bernardo Medina has since filed lawsuits against both the company operating the ICE facility he was detained in and at least nine ICE agents that were directly involved in his detention. Bustle has reached out to the ICE Chicago field office for comment. According to an investigation by NPR, immigration officials detained 1,511 U.S. citizens in local jails or immigration detention centers from 2007 to 2015, despite the fact that it is illegal for immigration authorities like ICE to detain U.S. citizens.

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Shortly after being sworn into office, President Trump directed the Department of Homeland Security to begin what he called a "crackdown on illegal criminals." In February, ICE agents arrested more than 600 people in a week of raids carried out across 11 states, the New York Times reported. Among the president's immigration ambitions are plans "to publicize crimes by undocumented immigrants; strip such immigrants of privacy protections; enlist local police officers as enforcers; erect new detention facilities; discourage asylum seekers; and, ultimately, speed up deportations," the Times reported.

Will Trump's push for increasingly aggressive immigration policies result in more U.S. citizens like Aguilar and Medina being unfairly caught up in the net?