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Ninth Circuit Blocks Deportation of ICE Detainee Who Received $125,000 for County Jail Rape

by Derek Gilna

In August 2017, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the deportation of Audemio Orozco-Ramirez, an undocumented Mexican immigrant who was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in 2013, confined at the Jefferson County jail in Montana and held pending a civil removal order. While incarcerated he reported that he had been raped by other prisoners who drugged his coffee.

Released from jail as authorities investigated his claims, and while his immigration case was pending, Orozco-Ramirez filed suit in federal district court, alleging violations of his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights as a civil detainee. After two years of litigation he received a settlement of $125,000 from Jefferson County in November 2016. [See: PLN, Dec. 2017, p.46]. However, the unwelcome publicity that his case generated for both the county and ICE made him a target for expedited deportation.

As a condition of his release Orozco-Ramirez was required to check in with ICE officials on a monthly basis, and since he had no criminal record the visits were expected to be routine. Yet he was taken into custody at a visit on August 2, 2017 and readied for immediate deportation. Orozco-Ramirez’s attorney, Shahid Haque, said, “Ever since President Trump took office and he issued these new priorities, we’ve been seeing more and more people who previously had been allowed to just check in and be free from detention, they’ve been arrested now.”

U.S. immigration law provides for a special “U visa” that is given to crime victims who agree to make themselves available to testify against their assailants, and Orozco-Ramirez applied for one of the visas in 2015. Nonetheless, it did not appear that ICE had ever acted on his application.

“It’s an effort to quickly remove him because of the public scrutiny this case has had over the years,” Haque stated, referring to the rape and settlement, and efforts to deport his client.

Orozco-Ramirez had lived in the U.S. for 20 years; he was married with seven children, many of whom were born in the United States. He had been taken into custody when the car he was riding in was stopped for a traffic violation. See: Orozco-Ramirez v. Sessions, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Case No. 17-72183. 

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