An Orange Coast College student registered under the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program has reached a settlement with Laguna Beach stemming from an immigration detention hold, allowing for a separate complaint he filed Wednesday with the city’s police department requesting an internal investigation of his arrest.
Edgar Eduardo Torres Gutierrez, 29, of Laguna Beach will receive $18,750 under the settlement with the city, which was reached last Thursday.
City officials denied the “material allegations of the claim,” and agreed to the settlement to avoid the “expense and uncertainty of litigation,” according to the agreement, under which they agreed to show a training video to Laguna Beach police officers regarding the state’s law on immigration holds.
The official complaint was filed Wednesday morning with the Laguna Beach Police Department, requesting an internal investigation around what led to his detention until U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents could take him into custody, which his attorneys say violates California’s so-called sanctuary state law.
Laguna Beach police booked Torres Gutierrez on suspicion of driving under the influence on June 3, 2018, and held him at the request of ICE until he could be taken into federal custody, according to his attorneys at the American Civil Liberties Union and the UC Irvine School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic. He was arrested about 1:30 a.m. and held behind bars for about 15 hours, his attorneys said.
Torres Gutierrez later pleaded guilty to reckless driving.
Torres Gutierrez, who volunteers at the LGBTQ Center Orange County, mentioned the incident to others at the organization, which led to his case being taken by the ACLU and UCI Immigrant Rights Clinic.
“I still think about my experience with the Laguna Beach police,” Torres Gutierrez said. “When the officer told me I was not going to be able to go home, I became fearful. I also felt betrayed. I take responsibility for the actions that led to my arrest, but I didn’t deserve to be treated differently than other residents who put their trust in the police.”
Annie Lai, co-director of the UCI clinic, said “Laguna Beach police should not have been helping ICE deport DACA recipients and, because Edgar came forward, now other residents hopefully won’t have to experience what he did.”
The DACA registry was created under President Barack Obama’s administration to allow children brought into the country as undocumented immigrants a chance to have some legal status. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on a legal challenge to Obama’s executive order, which was ruled unconstitutional by a lower court judge.
In Torres Gutierrez’s complaint requesting an internal investigation, he alleged officers “misrepresented” the time he could be expected to be released and that at least one officer laughed and told another that he “lied … about the time.”
When ICE authorities picked him up, “I recall that some Laguna Beach police officers snickered as I left,” Torres Gutierrez said in the claim.
Torres Gutierrez said he was let go after questioning at an ICE facility in Los Angeles about 11 p.m. June 3.