On Thursday, Jan. 28, a jury awarded $30,000 in damages to a woman it found was falsely imprisoned by the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office in 2017.
After a four-day federal trial, jurors determined deputies at the county jail detained Myriam Parada longer than legally allowed after contacting Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
“This verdict sends a powerful message that our jails are committing false imprisonment when they unlawfully hold people for ICE,” ACLU-MN attorney Ian Bratlie said in a statement. “We hope it gives jail officials incentive to respect the U.S. Constitution and the rights of people, regardless of where they are born.”
The lawsuit stems from a 2017 traffic collision where Parada was arrested after the responding officer claimed he could not identify her using the Matricula Consular card she provided, according to court documents.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit on Parada’s behalf, claiming her arrest and detention were unconstitutional.
While Chief Judge John Tunheim ruled Parada’s arrest was constitutionally reasonable, the jury was asked to determine if the jail held her longer than legally permitted. The jury said yes.
Central to the case was the Sheriff’s Office’s unwritten policy to contact ICE when a foreign-born resident is booked into the jail.
In August 2020 Tunheim found that the policy discriminated on the basis of national origin and violated Parada’s 14th Amendment right to equal protection. His ruling said the policy was unconstitutional because it was not tailored narrowly enough to further a compelling government interest and would exclude U.S.-born non-citizens while sweeping up foreign-born U.S. citizens and immigrants already admitted into the country in whom ICE would have no interest.
But the jury awarded only nominal damages of $1 for the violation of Parada’s equal protection rights, because it found she had not suffered any actual damages as a result of the jail contacting ICE.
“I’m so proud of being part of this lawsuit and getting rid of this policy,” Parada said in a statement released by the ACLU. “I didn’t want to see this happen to anyone else. I’m so thankful to everyone.”
Parada was arrested July 25, 2017, after she was rear-ended while driving family home from her sister’s birthday party. A Coon Rapids officer responded to the scene and detained Parada on misdemeanor charges of driving without a license. The motorist who hit her was allowed to leave, according to court documents.
While Parada did not have a U.S. driver’s license, she provided the officer with her Matricula Consular card. That is a form of ID provided by the Mexican consulate, according to court documents.
Parada was arrested and booked in the Anoka County Jail around 7:20 p.m. the same day, according to court documents.
Sometime after 11 p.m. deputies put Parada on the phone with ICE agents without providing her an initial phone call and instructed her to ask ICE if she needed a lawyer, according to the lawsuit. The ICE agent informed her the process would go faster without an attorney, according to the suit.
Around 2 a.m. July 26, 2017, Parada was released from her cell, given a citation for driving without a Minnesota driver’s license and handed over to ICE agents, according to court documents.
The Anoka County Sheriff’s Office was not immediately available for comment on the jury’s verdict.
This story has been updated.