A Colorado man said he was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and illegally detained for days because he is Hispanic, Denver 7 News reports.
According to two separate lawsuits filed in January by Bernardo Medina, the 22-year old went to court in Gunnison County, CO on Jan. 27, 2015 for a DUI sentencing hearing when he was “aggressively confronted” by ICE agents, who asked the Colorado resident to identify himself. After Medina produced his Colorado ID, the agents allegedly searched him—without a warrant—and took him to Alamosa, CO for questioning.
While in Alamosa, ICE agents questions Medina about his citizenship, allegedly telling him, “You don’t look like you were born in Montrose.” According to the lawsuit, the agent’s comments were “a clear allusion to [Medina’s] Hispanic appearance.” He was later transported to another immigration center in Colorado Springs, CO, where agents continued to question his citizenship.
“Not only was he insisting to every person who would listen that he was a U.S. citizen, his family was also on the outside trying to talk with any ICE official that would talk with them to show his birth certificate,” Andy Richmond, Medina’s lawyer, told Denver 7.
He was transferred to yet another immigration detention facility before an immigration rights advocate managed to convince the guards Medina was an American citizen by producing a copy of his birth certificate. The guards released him without calling friends or family, the suits say, and he was left stranded in Aurora, CO “with a dead cell phone and less than $5 in his pocket.”
A spokesperson for ICE said Medina, who was born in Montrose, CO and moved to Mexico before his first birthday, told “local officers” in Colorado that he was a Mexican citizen in the U.S. illegally. But Richmond, Medina’s lawyer, insists ICE’s “version of events” is inaccurate.
“It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for an American citizen to tell immigration officials he was in the country illegally,” Richmond said.