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Grandmother Arrested and Mocked by Federal Agents Awarded $55,000 Settlement

by Chad Marks

Guadalupe Robles Plascencia became a naturalized U.S. citizen in May 1998, and San Bernardino, California has been her home for nearly 40 years. It’s where she raised her five children. It also is the place where she and one of her daughters opened their own business – a beauty salon.

She was living the “American Dream,” but all that changed on March 29, 2017.

Plascencia and her daughter went to the Ontario Police Department to pick up her legally owned firearm that was recovered from the scene of a car accident. That was when her “American Dream” became a nightmare.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department handcuffed the grandmother of 16 and told her she was being arrested for disobeying a court order. Before long, she was in a cell at the county jail being directed to sign a document informing the Mexican consulate of her arrest.

Plascencia explained that she was a U.S. citizen. The sheriff’s department had her driver’s license, gun registration and other paperwork demonstrating she was a citizen. Rather than being released she spent the night in a cell, and the next afternoon was told she was being freed but had to sign paperwork notifying Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Rather than allow the 60-year-old woman to leave the jail, she was told to wait in a cell. That was simply a ruse to buy time for ICE to show up and arrest her again – reportedly a common practice for the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department. Before long, Plascencia was arrested again and transported to an ICE field station.

When she again insisted she was a U.S. citizen, officers laughed at her and said, “Here, you are nobody, nothing.” 

Plascencia tried to explain her daughter had her passport, and was told by an agent that he could review data accessible through a computer and determine her citizenship status. The agent insinuated he knew she was lying and accused her of identity theft, threatening to deport her. Several requests to call her daughter to bring her passport to the field station were denied. An agent eventually called her daughter, who showed up with Plascencia’s passport.

She was eventually released from custody with no apology.

Plascencia filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on December 19, 2017, raising claims of false imprisonment, emotional distress and unreasonable seizure, among others.

It did not take long to settle the case, and Plascencia was awarded $55,000 in October 2018. The settlement has not taken away her “American Nightmare,” though, as she fears being arrested again and threatened with deportation despite the fact that she is a U.S. citizen. See: Plascencia v. United States, U.S.D.C. (C.D. Cal.), Case No. 5:17-cv-02515-JGB-SP. 


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Related legal case

Plascencia v. United States