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U.S. Citizen Sues Pierce County for Unlawfully Detaining Him and Violating Constitutional Rights and State Law

For Immediate Release
January 12, 2022


Media Contacts

Leila Kang, NWIRP;, 206-816-3847

Brian Robick, ACLU of Washington;, 206-513-1421


Seattle, WA – Carlos Rios, a United States citizen, filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington today against Pierce County and Pierce County Jail deputies, seeking declaratory relief and damages for his unlawful imprisonment and violations of his civil rights under federal and state law. He is represented in the case by the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP), the ACLU of Washington, and Rekhi & Wolk, P.S.

In November 2019, Mr. Rios was arrested and taken into custody on a misdemeanor, but a day later, his charges were dropped, and under state and federal law, he should have been released. However, based on a detainer request from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Pierce County Jail deputies continued to hold Mr. Rios in jail even though they had no probable cause or judicial warrant to do so. The complaint alleges that the deputies contacted ICE to notify the agency of Mr. Rios’s scheduled release so that he could be picked up by immigration officers from the jail. Pierce County deputies acted in this way even though Washington State law specifically prohibits county jails from assisting federal immigration officials by providing them with information regarding an individual’s release or keeping an individual in custody for the sole purpose of facilitating an immigration arrest.

Ultimately, when employees of GEO Corporation, acting under ICE direction, arrived at Pierce County Jail to transport Mr. Rios to the Northwest ICE Processing Center (NWIPC) in Tacoma, Pierce County deputies re-shackled his wrists and ankles and handed him over to the GEO employees, disregarding his repeated pleas that he was a U.S. citizen. Mr. Rios was subsequently taken into ICE custody and unlawfully incarcerated at the NWIPC for one week—until ICE officers finally realized that he was, in fact, a U.S. citizen and thus could not be subject to deportation.

“I lost a great deal in my life as a result of the incident,” Mr. Rios said. “I am still recovering from its effects, and no amount of compensation will bring back what I lost that day. I was mistreated, kept in jail, and handed over to ICE despite being a U.S. citizen. They made a serious mistake, and this kind of abuse should not happen.”

“Pierce County had no valid reason to hold Mr. Rios once his charges were dropped,” said Leila Kang, Staff Attorney at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. “Mr. Rios’s case epitomizes the harm that can result when local officials detain individuals for immigration purposes in violation of the U.S. Constitution and Washington State laws.”

“Pierce County Sheriff’s deputies not only violated Mr. Rios’ Fourth Amendment rights, they broke state law,” said Yvonne Chin, Staff Attorney at the ACLU of Washington. “The state Legislature enacted the Keep Washington Working Act in 2019 precisely to prevent the type of misconduct Mr. Rios was forced to endure—local law enforcement authorities racially profiling and making unfounded assumptions about a person’s immigration status and then using state and local resources to aid federal immigration officers.”


A link to the complaint can be found here.