A Peruvian immigrant in Alaska settled a lawsuit with Palmer police after its officers detained 38-year old Alex Caceda on civil immigration charges.
The settlement, announced by the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska, curbs its litigation in exchange for $50,000, an official apology and changes to Palmer police procedure.
Procedural changes, writes the Kansas City Star, include an acknowledgment “that unauthorized presence in the United States is not a crime.” Officers also admitted that, at least in their jurisdiction, arrests are best left to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
The lawsuit broadly challenged the authority of local police in Alaska to executive civil immigration arrests.
The Anchorage Daily News reports that Caceda had initially arrived into the United States on a non-immigrant-type visa. His status became void after overstayed his authorization and began working.
Caceda, said ACLU-Alaska, was working security at a Palmer bar in August 2017. It was the night of the Conor McGregor-Floyd Mayweather fight. Several customers who’d been drinking throughout the event turned aggressive, harassing waitstaff.
When a fight broke out, Caceda stepped in, protecting a female bartender who was being assaulted by three men.
During the altercation, Caceda himself was injured. The men beat him, contusing his face and head, as he tried to herd them outside.
His wounds, says the Daily News, are visible in a video obtained and shown by the ACLU.
After police arrived, Caceda was arrested after officers learned of a federal immigration detainer with his name on it. He was handcuffed and detained for four days; law enforcement treated his injuries.
Eventually, Caceda was released to pursue a green card application that was already underway.
“We’re hoping this sends a message to all the local law enforcement agencies across the state that they have to respect immigrants’ rights no matter what ICE tells them,” ACLU spokesman Casey Reynolds said. “They still have to follow the law.”
“If they try to arrest immigrants just for being undocumented even if ICE directs them to then they’ll be held accountable because that’s an unlawful act,” Reynolds added.
Palmer’s police chief, Lance Ketterling, said in a Tuesday statement that neither he nor the city “have anything to add to the settlement agreement.”
The lawsuit, says the Anchorage Daily News, claimed that Caceda’s arrested violates the searches and seizures clause of the state constitution. A Superior Court judge was asked to determine that Palmer police don’t have the authority to make arrests and hold individuals in custody for civil immigration offenses, even if they’re asked to by the federal government.
Caceda, who’s trying to obtain a green card and U.S. citizenship, has continued living in the Palmer area since the suit was first filed. The ACLU didn’t disclose his exact location to news media.
“He has received some threats, but we also want to make sure he’s not targeted by state and federal law enforcement for federal action,” Reynolds said.
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