In the first virtual federal jury trial in Minnesota, a jury Thursday found that Anoka County and its sheriff falsely imprisoned a young woman by slow-walking her booking and following an unwritten and unconstitutional policy of contacting ICE about people born outside the U.S.
The jury awarded Myriam Parada $30,000 in damages.
“This verdict sends a powerful message that our jails are committing false imprisonment when they unlawfully hold people for ICE,” said ACLU-MN attorney Ian Bratlie. “We hope it gives jail officials incentive to respect the U.S. Constitution and the rights of people, regardless of where they are born.”
The ACLU-MN, along with the firms Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr and Kutak Rock LLP, had sued the Anoka County Jail and sheriff on behalf of Myriam, who was rear-ended while driving her siblings home from her sister’s 15th birthday party. A police officer let the other driver go without even a warning, and instead arrested and jailed Myriam.
The jail held her for several hours so it could turn her over to ICE. In a previous ruling in this case, the U.S. District Court in Minnesota already found that the jail’s unwritten policy of holding anyone born outside the U.S. for ICE -- regardless of citizenship or immigration status -- discriminates against people on the basis of national origin, violating the 14th Amendment right to equal protection.
“I’m so proud of being part of this lawsuit and getting rid of this policy,” Myriam Parada said. “I didn’t want to see this happen to anyone else. I’m so thankful to everyone.”
During the trial this week, jail officials testified that along with following this unwritten unconstitutional policy, deputies violated their own training and policies in several ways: They didn’t give Myriam access to her attorney; provided legal advice; and honored an ICE detainer, even knowing it does not have force of law.
Officials testified that it’s jail policy to let attorneys speak to clients, day or night, even during booking. Yet the jail didn’t allow the attorney hired by Myriam’s family to speak to her, or even let Myriam know an attorney was there.
Instead of giving Myriam her initial phone call or letting her talk to her waiting attorney, they put her on the line with ICE. When she asked the deputy whether she needed an attorney, he shrugged and told her to ask ICE. She asked the ICE agent the same thing, and was told the process would go faster without an attorney.
Jail officials testified they knew ICE detainers were not signed by a judge and didn’t have the force of law, so they had trained staff not to turn people over to ICE based on a detainer. Yet staff did just that in Myriam’s case.
Attorneys on the case included lead partner Alain Baudry of Saul Ewing; Amanda Cefalu and Nathan Boone of Kutak Rock LLP; and Ian Bratlie and Teresa Nelson of the ACLU-MN.