Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Eighth Circuit Upholds Immigration Detention of American Citizen

On February 21, 2017, the Eight Circuit court of appeals affirmed the dismissal of a civil rights lawsuit brought by an American citizen who was held over a weekend in a Nebraska jail on an immigration detainer.

Ramon Mendoza was taken to the Sarpy County, Nebraska, jail after he was arrested on a Friday afternoon for driving with a revoked license. Mendoza is a naturalized American citizen who was born in Mexico. During intake he did not state that he was a U.S. citizen and misstated the last digit of his social security number. Although he had communicated with the intake officer in English, the final intake form said he was not a U.S. citizen and his language was Spanish. He signed the form and a 48-hour waiver form, giving up his right to appear before a judge expeditiously.

This was Mendoza's fourth booking at the jail and the three previous computer entries showed he was a U.S. citizen whose language was English. Nonetheless, a booking clerk called ICE agent Osterberg, who had weekend duty and was working from home.

Osterberg contacted the Law Enforcement Service Center and asked them to search their databases for Mendoza. This turned up two files, one for Ramon Mendoza-Gutierrez, an aggravated felon who had previously been deported, and one for Ramon Mendoza-Gallegos, a legal permanent resident. Mendoza was actually the latter and the file had not been updated to show his naturalization. Osterberg had no way of knowing that because he could not run fingerprints or access Alien Files from home. He believed that the two files were for the same person and ordered Mendoza detained for ICE.

After learning about the ICE hold, Mendoza told jail staff that he was a U.S. citizen, but did not ask to speak to an ICE agent. His wife brought his documentation to the jail, but they rebuffed her. She did not contact ICE.

The following Monday, Osterberg ran Mendoza's fingerprints and determined that he was not Mendoza-Gutierrez. He immediately cancelled the ICE detainer and Mendoza was processed for release.

Medoza filed a federal civil rights suit against Osteberg and jail personnel. He alleged a conspiracy to violate his due process and other civil rights. The district court granted defendants summary judgment after finding that Mendoza's constitutional rights had not been violated. Mendoza appealed.

The Eighth Circuit found that Osterberg's actions were reasonable. He was not required to question further after finding out that Mendoza was born in Mexico when Mendoza had not mentioned that he was a U.S. citizen. Osterberg reasonable interpreted the information he had. He also conducted a sufficient investigation using the limited resources he had at his disposal. Mendoza's constitutional rights had not been violated. Therefore, the judgment of the district court was affirmed.

See: Mendoza v. United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 8th Cir., No. 16-1807


As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

Mendoza v. United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement