A former US Marine who was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was arrested and detained for three days by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement before they finally realized he was actually an American citizen, according to the Daily Mail.
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawyers are representing Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, 27, who lives in the Grand Rapids area. Ramos-Gomez was born in Michigan, served as a lance corporal in the Marines, and received awards for service in Afghanistan.
He was arrested on November 21, accused of trespassing and damaging a fire alarm at a Grand Rapids hospital. In court, the ACLU lawyers claimed that his PTSD had a role in the incident and added that he had pleaded guilty to the charges.
He was due to be released from the Kent County jail where he was being held on December 14 to await sentencing. However, Immigration and Customs Enforcement contacted the jail before this date and requested that he be held for pick up.
Ramos-Gomez was then transferred to a detention center in Battle Creek, some 70 miles away, where he was held for a further three days. He was only released after a lawyer, Richard Kessler, contacted Immigration and Customs Enforcement on behalf of his family and provided them with the necessary paperwork to prove his nationality.
Under questioning in court, Chuck DeWitt, Kent County Undersheriff, was adamant that his department had done nothing wrong.
“Once he was released from our custody, he was under the domain of Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” said DeWitt. “Where they take him is their process. Our procedures were followed.”
However, he also added that Immigration and Customs Enforcement had access to fingerprint records like all law enforcement agencies. The implication behind this comment was that they should have been able to find out Ramos-Gomez was an American citizen relatively easy.
Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young concurred with DeWitt, telling the court her officers do not have the power to question Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s requests to detain someone. She did, however, acknowledge that the situation was “very unfortunate” for Ramos-Gomez before adding, “[w]e believe this case underscores the need for immigration policy reform.”
ACLU attorney Miriam Aukerman went even further. In her comments to the court, she said, “Why did they think he was a noncitizen? Did they get him confused with someone else? Who knows? This is an individual who’s incredibly vulnerable with a mental illness.” She went on to describe the error as “appalling.”
ICE spokesman Khaalid Walls in Detroit said he was unable to respond to media inquiries about the case because of the government shutdown.