ONTARIO – An Ontario woman claims in a federal lawsuit that she was arrested by immigration officers, shackled and held in Boise for more than two hours despite being a U.S. citizen.
Luz Nunez is suing five officers of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for what she claims was an unlawful arrest in 2017.
She is being represented in the U.S. District Court case by the Oregon Law Center.
Federal authorities have been seeking to have the case dismissed in recent court filings.
According to court records, Nunez was driving her boyfriend and his friend to work in Ontario on Sept. 19, 2017, when she said three plainclothes ICE agents ordered her to stop her car.
The agents were pursuing two passengers in Nunez’s car. Nunez, 19 at the time, provided a valid Oregon driver’s license as proof of identification, but the agents didn’t think that was conclusive proof of her legal status, according to a declaration filed by ICE Agent Paul Maple.
Since 2008, Oregon has required proof of legal status to obtain a driver’s license.
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In a declaration, Nunez said she took out her cell phone to record what was happening and ICE agent Brandon Jones told her to put down the phone and asked if she wanted to be arrested.
Nunez was ordered to step out of the vehicle. Nunez stated she complied with the requests and when asked to move to the hood of the car, one of the agents grabbed her arm so hard that she pulled her arm away.
In his declaration, ICE agent Paul Maple said Nunez attempted to assault him when she pulled her arm away, swinging it upward.
Nunez maintains the allegation is false. Maple said Nunez refused to answer questions about her citizenship status.
Nunez stated in court records that she does not recall ever being asked about her legal status.
She said they asked her where she was born and she said she was “from here.”
According to Maple’s declaration, Nunez was arrested for her alleged assault of the officer, interference with the arrest of the passengers in her car and refusal to answer questions about her legal status.
Nunez was handcuffed and placed in chains, and taken to an ICE detention facility about 55 miles away in Boise.
She was locked in a cell where paramedics treated her for shoulder pain. She was fingerprinted and questioned, and later released around 9:30 p.m. with no means of getting home, according to the suit.
At the Boise office, she said agents told her she had been arrested for being “uncooperative” and that two agents stated they were “almost 100%” sure she was a U.S. citizen while two other agents told her they were “20% sure” that she was not.
Nunez said she was never told she was being arrested on suspicion of being undocumented, if she had known, she said she would have offered to have a family member bring her birth certificate showing she was born in the United States.
She was released with no formal charges ever being filed against her.
Nunez couldn’t be reached for comment and her attorneys declined comment.
The lawsuit calls the arrest abusive, retaliatory and illegal and seeks an unspecified compensation.
A spokeswoman for ICE said the agency does not comment on pending litigation, but added, “That said, absence of comment should in no way be construed as agreement with any of the allegations. ICE conducts activities in compliance with federal law and agency policy.”
The arrest of U.S. citizens by ICE is not unheard of.
Last week, ICE released a 19-year-old Dallas-born citizen of Mexican descent after three weeks in detention. The case, first reported in the Dallas Morning News, made national headlines.
“This is happening, and this has happened before, and it’s something we want to avoid,” said Ivan Hernandez, communications director for Causa, an Oregon-based organization advocates for immigrant rights. “A lot of times people are profiled just by the way they look, and it makes all of us less safe.”
Reporter Yadira Lopez: 541-473-3377 or [email protected].
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