Northwest Immigrant Rights Project & Center for Justice Achieve Settlement in Case of Immigrant Detained Unlawfully
For Immediate Release
Friday, September 17, 2010
Contact: Matt Adams, Legal Director, NWIRP, 206.957.8611, firstname.lastname@example.org
SEATTLE, WA- Spokane County has agreed to pay $35,000 to a Mexican citizen, Enoc Arroyo-Estrada, for incarcerating him in the county jail for 20 days based on suspicion of lack of lawful immigration status. Mr. Arroyo was represented by Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (“NWIRP”) and the Center for Justice in his action against Spokane County.
On October 10, 2009, Mr. Arroyo was involved in a traffic accident in an intersection in the Spokane Valley. After questioning him regarding his immigration status, the officers charged Mr. Arroyo with the infraction of driving with no valid operator’s license. He was arrested and transferred to Spokane County Jail. His family posted bail for him that same day. But Spokane County Jail did not release him. He was told that because officers with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) had issued a “detainer,” he was ineligible to be released.
For the next twenty days Mr. Arroyo sat in county jail, unsure of what was happening. He was assigned a public defender who could not explain why he was being kept in jail. His public defender called the jail, and after receiving unsatisfactory responses, prepared to file a habeas petition demanding Mr. Arroyo’s release. Ultimately the district judge dismissed the case against Mr. Arroyo and ordered his release. It turns out Mr. Arroyo did have a driver’s license. While Mr. Arroyo was overjoyed to return home to his wife and two small children after twenty days of incarceration, he still was unsure of why he had been locked up, forcing him to lose his job.
His public defender contacted the Washington Defender’s Association who put him in contact with Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (“NWIRP”). NWIRP attorneys recognized a reoccurring pattern: local jails failing to release persons where immigration officers issue a detainer, even where ICE officers fail to show up to take custody of the person within 48 hours as required by law.
NWIRP enlisted the assistance of the Center for Justice in Spokane, and in February of this year issued a notice of claim against Spokane County based on their unlawful imprisonment of Mr. Arroyo. In June, Spokane County reached a final settlement in Enoc Arroyo v. Spokane County Sheriff’s Office Claim # 10-0046. Spokane County agreed to pay Mr. Arroyo $35,000 in compensation for the twenty days he spent in detention.
“The local jail can’t lock up people just because they are suspicious that they don’t currently have valid immigration status. Even if immigration officers issue a detainer, the jail still is obliged by law to release the person within 48 hours if immigration does not take custody of the person,” explained Mr. Arroyo’s attorney, Matt Adams, legal director of Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. “The constitution protects all persons, not just U.S. citizens, from being locked up in violation of the law.”
Mr. Arroyo is glad now to put this behind him. He hopes his case will help deter other counties from similar conduct: “Being in jail was traumatizing. But the worst was thinking about my family, my wife and children. They didn’t know what was happening to me. I wouldn’t want this to happen to anybody else.”