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That Time I wasn't Killed by the Police

Sergio Carrillo, a citizen since 1994, was detained three days

The ACLU Foundation of Southern California and the law firm of Perkins Coie have reached a settlement on behalf of Sergio Carrillo who was arrested by immigration agents and detained for three days though he had repeatedly informed officers he was a U.S. citizen.

Carrillo, who lives in Rialto and works as a contractor and landscaper, was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in July 2016, outside a Home Depot where he had gone to do some shopping. The agents ignored his claim of U.S. citizenship, which he obtained in 1994, until his family hired an attorney and forced the issue.

According to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU SoCal and Perkins Coie, Carrillo was targeted because he was born in Mexico and otherwise didn’t show up in immigration databases.

According to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU SoCal and Perkins Coie, Carrillo was targeted because he was born in Mexico and otherwise didn’t show up in immigration databases.

“This is every immigrant’s nightmare, even if they have citizenship,” said attorney Jennie Pasquarella, the ACLU of California’s director of immigrants’ rights. “Sergio was arrested and put behind bars because of the absence of any information on him in their databases, which are known to be full of errors."

At the time, ICE broke with its own policy that states a claim of citizenship by an arrestee must be promptly investigated. Instead, they ignored Carrillo’s pleas to check his citizenship status.

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The settlement, filed November 29, calls for Carrillo to receive $20,000 in compensation.

“When I heard Sergio’s story, I was shocked,” said Tyler Anthony, an associate at Perkins Coie. “Sergio is a U.S. citizen and ICE had no evidence to think otherwise. It’s saddening to think that anyone is potentially in danger of such treatment, and his story is a reminder that we need to hold the government accountable. I am glad that we were able to do so in Sergio’s case.”

Carrillo’s arrest occurred on the morning of July 25, 2016. His cell phone rang as he was about to enter a Home Depot in Rialto and the caller asked where he was. Carrillo told him, but when he asked who the caller was, the caller hung up. A few minutes later, Carrillo received a text again asking his whereabouts. When he called the number, the person who answered said he was at the Home Depot, but again refused to identify himself.

A short time later, after Carrillo had made his purchases and left the store, officers in vests marked “POLICE” asked if he was Sergio Carrillo and arrested him but refused to say why. An officer in a “Homeland Security” uniform joined them, and Carrillo immediately stated they had the wrong person because he had been a citizen for more than 20 years.

Nonetheless, Carillo was searched and taken to an ICE processing center where he was photographed and fingerprinted. Agents issued him a notice to appear in immigration court, charging him with grounds of removability.

Carrillo was then taken to Adelanto Detention Center, where officers also ignored his citizenship claim until Thursday, when a lawyer hired by Carrillo’s family emailed a copy of his passport and certificate of citizenship to an ICE agent. Finally, his claim of citizenship was investigated and Carrillo was released later that day.

Read the settlement here 

Read the complaint here