ACLU: Government mistakenly wanted to deport US veteran from Grand Rapids

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 06: An exterior view of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency headquarters. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

DETROIT (AP) — A Marine veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder was held for three days for possible deportation before federal authorities learned that he was a U.S. citizen born in Michigan, lawyers said Wednesday.

Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, 27, lives in the Grand Rapids area. He was released on Dec. 17 from a detention center in Calhoun County after personal records were provided to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.

“Why did they think he was a noncitizen? Did they get him confused with someone else? Who knows,” ACLU attorney Miriam Aukerman said. “This is an individual who’s incredibly vulnerable with a mental illness.”

Wednesday night, ICE released a statement on the incident:

“On November 23rd, ICE officers interviewed Jilmar Ramos while he was in the custody of local law enforcement. Mr. Ramos claimed in verbal statements to be a foreign national illegally present in the U.S. Based on his statements, ICE lodged a detainer with local authorities. On December 14th, ICE took Mr. Ramos into agency custody after he was released from local custody. On December 17th, an attorney for Mr. Ramos contacted the agency and provided documentation suggesting that he is a U.S. citizen. ICE reviewed the documentation and authorized Mr. Ramos’ release. No further action will be taken.”

Ramos-Gomez was in the Kent County jail after being accused of trespassing and damaging a fire alarm at a Grand Rapids hospital on Nov. 21. The ACLU said he pleaded guilty and was supposed to be released on Dec. 14 while awaiting a sentence.

But ICE contacted the jail and requested that Ramos-Gomez be held for pickup. Kent County Undersheriff Chuck DeWitt said ICE, like other law enforcement agencies, has access to fingerprint records.

“Once he was released from our custody, he was under the domain of ICE. Where they take him is their process,” DeWitt said. “Our procedures were followed.”

DeWitt said he didn’t know whether Ramos-Gomez protested when immigration officers picked him up.

Ramos-Gomez was driven 70 miles to a detention center in Battle Creek. He was released after three days, after lawyer Richard Kessler contacted ICE on behalf of the man’s family.

Aukerman said Ramos-Gomez’ treatment was “appalling.”

Ramos-Gomez is receiving mental-health care and wasn’t available for an interview Wednesday. He was a lance corporal in the Marines and received awards for service in Afghanistan. The ACLU said his PTSD had a role in the disturbance at the hospital.

Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young defended her department, saying officers don’t have authority to verify why ICE wants to detain someone. Nonetheless, she called it a “very unfortunate situation” for Ramos-Gomez.

“We believe this case underscores the need for immigration policy reform,” the sheriff said.

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