Angelica Davila, 28, of West Mifflin, Pennsylvania was driving with her friend when police stopped her car for driving without headlights. Her friend was arrested at the time for not being in the country legally. He was deported several days later back to Honduras, his home country. Davila was detained and held at a U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement where an official mistakenly told law enforcement that she was in the country illegally.
The ACLU is filing a lawsuit claiming that Davila was racially profiled and the police had no right to ask to see her immigration status since all her paperwork was up to date during the traffic stop. “This is a blatant example of ethnic profiling,” Reggie Shuford, the executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. “The police had no reason to check Ms. Davila’s immigration status for a routine traffic stop when her paperwork was in order. The police questioned her status only because of her ethnicity and that of her passenger.”
This is not the first time someone claimed to be racially profiled by law enforcement and unrightfully detained. Since the first law was passed in December 2011 allowing police to ask for immigration status, ICE has twice revised its guidelines regarding immigration detainers. Currently, certain standards must be met before people can be detained with an increased focus on catching dangerous individuals who could potentially harm someone in society. Those arrested for minor violations such as petty crimes and traffic offenses are not the primary targets for police, however, in this case, Davila was detained for no apparent reason.
Davila’s father was born in Texas and is a U.S. citizen. Her mother was naturalized in 1997. Davila is a lawful permanent U.S. resident since 2001 when she was 16 due to the Child Citizenship Act of 2000. According to this act, Davila became a citizen the moment she was handed her permanent resident card. At the time of the traffic stop, Davila was waiting for her certificate of citizenship which would have proved her citizenship immediately. Davila was put in jail after speaking to an ICE agent on her cellphone. The lawsuit also states that officials ignored her claims that she was wrongfully detained and made fun of her friend who did not speak English. She spent the night on the cell floor until early the next morning despite jail officials finding out that Davila was a citizen around 10pm the previous night.
The ACLU is fighting to prevent future cases such as this one from occurring and to prevent law enforcement from racially profiling individuals. “When ICE makes a mistake about someone’s immigration status … the police officers who carry out the illegal detention violate the Fourth Amendment,” said Sara Rose, the ACLU attorney representing Davila.
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