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

$10,000 Settlement for California Man Unlawfully Detained by ICE

by Lonnie Burton

On October 1, 2013, U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti, sitting in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Francisco Division, signed a stipulated order dismissing a lawsuit filed by a man who was unlawfully detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) despite the fact he was a U.S. citizen. The parties agreed to a $10,000 payment, representing $5,000 per day of unlawful confinement.

Luis M. Rodriguez is a naturalized U.S. citizen. He obtained lawful permanent resident status (LPR) in 1993 at the age of eight, when his parents obtained the same status after emigrating from Mexico. When Congress passed the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, Rodriguez's status automatically entitled him to U.S. citizenship, which he permanently acquired on February 27, 2001. In 2003, Rodriguez applied for and was granted a U.S. passport, a document which by statute is conclusive proof of U.S. citizenship. See 22 U.S.C. § 2705.

In 2012 Rodriguez was convicted of a misdemeanor for violation of a protective order, and was sentenced to 90 days in jail, to be served on the weekends in the Sonoma County Jail. On May 25, 2012, Rodriguez checked in to the jail for his first weekend, expecting to be released on Sunday evening, May 27. Unknown to Rodriguez, however, ICE agent K. Legaspi placed an immigration detainer on him. On Sunday night, jail staff informed Rodriguez he would not be released due to the immigration hold. When Rodriguez told jail personnel he was a U.S. citizen and could not be deported, they told him it was out of their control and he would have "to take it up with ICE."

Rodriguez then called his wife Maria for help, and she brought his passport down to the jail, but staff proved uninterested. They refused to even look at the passport, and instead gave Maria an ICE telephone number. When Maria called that number, she merely got a recording. Maria finally reached an actual person at ICE on Tuesday morning May 29 by calling a different number she found on the internet. Maria then went to an attorney who faxed a copy of the passport information to the ICE agent, who verified Rodriguez's citizenship, and lifted the ICE hold. Rodriguez was released from jail that night.

Rodriguez then sued ICE and several agents, along with Sonoma County Sheriff Steven Freitas and ten of his deputies, for due process, unlawful search and seizure, false arrest, negligence, abuse of process, and negligent infliction of emotional distress claims. Rodriguez was represented by attorneys Trina Realmuto of the National Lawyers Guild National Immigration Project and Matt Adams of the National Immigrant Rights Project, along with Richard L. Coshnear of Santa Rosa. According to the federal complaint, all defendants failed "to act to confirm that there existed probable cause to detain Mr. Rodriguez for removal proceedings prior to lodging the detainer."

Shortly after his release in May 2012, Rodriguez filed an administrative complaint with the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors regarding his unlawful detention in which he sought $15,000. The Board denied the claim, essentially laying the full blame on ICE. "We find no wrongdoing on the part of the jail," they wrote.

Just over six months after the lawsuit was filed, the parties reached the settlement agreement. It is unclear from the documents provided whether the $10,000 award included costs and attorney’s fees or if that was a separate amount. See: Rodriguez v. Aitken, U.S.D.C (N.D. Cal. 2013), Case No. 3:13-cv-00551-SC.

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

Rodriguez v. Aitken