Immigrants rights groups sued the city of Baldwin Park Wednesday for what they allege was the unlawful imprisonment of a Salvadoran national who was arrested for a driving infraction and then targeted for deportation.
Sergio Flores, 30, of Los Angeles was held at the Baldwin Park police station for a weekend in April after being stopped for driving without a license and detained on the basis of an “immigration hold,” in violation of the California TRUST Act, according to the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
A representative of Baldwin Park could not immediately be reached for comment.
Flores, who entered the United States illegally from El Salvador more than a decade ago, said that on the Monday following his arrest, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents took him to a federal detention center.
The TRUST Act, which went into effect at the beginning of the year, limits immigration holds in local jails. It’s aimed at restoring trust between police and immigrant communities in the wake of the Secure Communities program – – a now-discredited federal deportation program that led to the separation of hundreds of thousands of immigrant families, according to MALDEF.
Flores, who has no criminal history, faces possible deportation and separation from his American-born son, according to the Superior Court lawsuit filed by MALDEF and other plaintiffs.
“Law enforcement officials who choose to honor ICE holds issued against peaceful immigrants raising families in California undermine public safety and community cohesion,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF’s president and general counsel. “State law now clearly prohibits this detrimental conduct by police in California.”
According to the suit, Baldwin Park police refused to allow Flores to post bail for which he was eligible, and which he was willing and able to pay. The city was in violation of state law by confining Flores without cause or a judicial warrant, MALDEF contends.
“The TRUST Act is intended to restore community trust for immigrants who are too afraid of deportation to report crime to local law enforcement,” said MALDEF staff attorney Matthew Barragan. “The Baldwin Park Police Department is destroying that trust and transparency, making us all less safe.”
The lawsuit seeks to prevent what MALDEF calls “wasteful and illegal expenditure of taxpayers’ dollars” in detaining individuals on the basis of immigration holds alone.
— City News Service