Deportation proceedings were terminated after a judge found that a Los Angeles handyman had been unlawfully arrested based on his Latino appearance alone at a Greyhound station in Indio by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers, court papers obtained today show.
The plain-clothed immigration agents who detained and handcuffed Edgar Solano as he waited for a bus on Jan. 11, 2018, violated his protections under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, U.S. Immigration Judge Sebastian Patti wrote in his order Monday.
A CBP representative could not be reached for immediate comment.
Before Solano was detained, the court order says, the officers "merely knew his name, his place of residence, and appearance. However, these are not appropriate factors in establishing the requisite reasonable suspicion.''
The order further read, "A reasonable CBP officer should have known that he or she was violating the Fourth Amendment by seizing Respondent based on his Latino appearance alone.''
The court ordered deportation proceedings against Solano be terminated.
"As the court correctly concluded, the detention of Mr. Solano based on racial profiling was an egregious violation of his constitutional rights,'' said Eva Bitran, a staff attorney with the ACLU Foundation of Southern California. "We know, however, that such arrests are common practice. We hope (the court's) decision will serve as a warning to federal immigration officials that their lawlessness will not stand.''
On the day of his arrest, Solano was doing a repair job in Indio.
Because his car wasn't running, he traveled by bus and planned to take the 9:25 p.m. Greyhound back to Los Angeles from Indio. The bus was more than an hour late.
When the bus finally arrived, Solano was standing in line to board when two plain-clothed men approached him and asked his name and address.
Solano answered them ,but the men, who had not identified themselves, asked Solano to show identification, court documents show. He told them he would rather not, because if he was delayed he would miss the last bus home for the night.
One of the men ordered him out of line, took him by the arm and steered him toward an unmarked pickup truck in the parking lot as the other man motioned to the bus that it could leave without him, according to his attorneys.
When they got to the truck, Solano's hands were handcuffed behind him.
The ACLU contends that only then did the men identify themselves as immigration enforcement agents. They showed him badges reading, "Customs and Border Protection,'' according to court documents.
At that point, the agents had already violated the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution and regulations, according to the ACLU. Long-standing court rulings have held that immigration agents cannot detain a person without reasonable suspicion based on specific facts, and the courts have ruled that the suspicion cannot be merely based on ethnicity.
A 1994 court decision involving U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service agents was one of many cited by the ACLU. It states, "Allowing INS agents to seize and interrogate an individual simply because of his foreign-sounding name or his foreign-looking appearance risks allowing race or national origin to determine who will and who will not be investigated.''
Under further questioning by the agents that night in Indio, Solano admitted he did not have papers authorizing his presence in the United States.
He was arrested and spent more than two months in a detention facility before getting a bond hearing, according to the ACLU.