American war veteran who spent several days in ICE detention receives $190k settlement

'The fact that he has the name that he does, that he's of the ethnic background that he is, almost certainly played a role,' senior ACLU attorney says

Chris Riotta
New York
Thursday 14 November 2019 16:36 GMT
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A US citizen and military veteran suffering from a mental health condition will reportedly receive $190,000 (£147,988) from a Michigan city after local officials transferred him to ICE detention following an arrest last year.

Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, a decorated Marine veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, was arrested while experiencing an episode in which he lost all recollection, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Police found the veteran, who was born and raised in Michigan, on the helipad of a hospital after he started a small fire and pulled an alarm, according to reports.

Mr Ramos-Gomez was set to be released from jail after pleading guilty to a misdemeanour trespassing charge, but was instead turned over to ICE by the Kent County Sheriff’s Department, which reportedly has a contract with the federal immigration enforcement agency.

“The fact that he has the name that he does, that he's of the ethnic background that he is, almost certainly played a role," Miriam Aukerman, a senior attorney for the ACLU of Michigan, told CNN.

Mr Ramos-Gomez was held for at least three days in ICE custody before he was released.

A judge previously said he should be released on his own recognisance from the local jail, however, and there was no seemingly reason for him to have ever interacted with ICE as he is a US citizen.

"I think it's racial stereotyping," immigration attorney Richard Kessler told the Washington Post. "And it should have been evident that he had pretty significant mental-health issues."

ICE attempted to defend the US citizen’s detention in a statement that said Mr Ramos-Gomez “claimed in verbal statements to be a foreign national illegally present in the US”.

The statement continued: “Based on his statements, ICE lodged a detainer with local authorities."

The ACLU said Mr Ramos-Gomez returned from Afghanistan as a “shell of his former self” and has suffered multiple “episodes where he disappears”.

On Tuesday, the Grand Rapids City Commission voted to approve the settlement for the veteran.

Still, advocates are calling for the city to sever its ties with ICE, as ACLU demands an investigation into the case.

"Research has shown conclusively that local law enforcement's collaboration with ICE increases instances of racial profiling, and sows distrust between the community and law enforcement," immigration activists wrote in a letter to local officials, according to CNN. "This voluntary practice can be stopped at any time. The time to do so is now."

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