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ACLU sues ICE for detaining US citizen, a Marine veteran from Michigan

Jilmar Ramos-Gomez was held for three days at a detention center in Battle Creek, Mich., before a lawyer working his the family provided proof of citizenship.

RICHARD KESSLER

By JOHN AGAR | MLive.com | Published: November 20, 2019

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (Tribune News Service) — The ACLU said it has filed a federal lawsuit against federal agencies for detaining Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, a U.S. citizen and Marine veteran, for three days.

Ramos-Gomez has reached a $190,000 settlement with the City of Grand Rapids after an off-duty police captain contacted U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, to check his immigration status.

The American Civil Liberties of Michigan said it filed a lawsuit against ICE and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for records related to Ramos-Gomez’s detention as well as policies on wrongfully detained and deported U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents and legal immigrants.

It also seeks information regarding those with mental-health issues or disabilities.

“Jilmar Ramos-Gomez fought and served our country selflessly, yet ICE tried to deport this hometown hero and blatantly disregarded his citizenship, service, and mental health challenges,” Miriam Aukerman, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan, said in a statement Wednesday, Nov. 20.

“Mr. Ramos-Gomez, and the public, deserve to know why the United States government abused its own citizen and veteran, and how many others have suffered in the same way.”

Khaalid Walls, a spokesman for ICE, which is part of Homeland Security, said the agency would not comment on pending litigation.

The ACLU and cooperating attorneys also filed a claim against the agencies seeking damages for Ramos-Gomez. They contend ICE had information that Ramos-Gomez, born in Grand Rapids, was a U.S. citizen and Marine but still tried to deport him.

The ACLU said that his detention worsened his post-traumatic stress disorder. He rarely leaves home now.

Ramos-Gomez was arrested Nov. 21, 2018, accused a starting a small fire in a Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital stairwell before going onto the hospital’s helipad. He was having a mental-health episode, his attorneys said.

He was jailed until Dec. 14, 2018, when he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor trespassing charge. He was released on bond but ICE agents arrested him before his mother could pick him up at jail.

He was held by federal authorities for three days despite possessing a U.S. passport and driver’s license showing he was a veteran.

He was released after an immigration attorney showed documentation that he was a U.S. citizen.

Ramos-Gomez served in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2014. He was a lance corporal and tank crewman.

Capt. Curt VanderKooi, a 40-year Grand Rapids police veteran who provided initial information to ICE about Ramos-Gomez being arresedt, was given a 20-hour unpaid suspension but has returned to the department.

“This is flagrant racial discrimination against a United States citizen and decorated combat veteran simply because of the color of his skin,” Anand Swaminathan, an ACLU cooperating attorney in Chicago, said in a statement.

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