Anoka County Jail’s policy regarding how it processes foreign-born prisoners moved closer to being argued in front of a jury following a district court opinion.
The court’s decision stems from a traffic incident three years ago. What appeared to be a routine fender bender on July 25, 2017 escalated quickly after it was learned the driver of one of the vehicles did not have a driver’s license. That led to a series of events that landed Myriam Parada, the foreign-born U.S. citizen driver who was rear-ended in that collision, to not only be detained at the Anoka County Jail, but to be held excessively long at the site where the accident occurred and also in Anoka County Jail, she claims. Officials at the jail ultimately contacted ICE, who took custody of Parada at 1:30 a.m. July 26, roughly six hours after she had arrived at the jail.
On Aug. 25, 2020 a Minnesota U.S. District Court judge ruled on motions by parties in a lawsuit against Anoka County, members of the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office and Coon Rapids law enforcement stemming from the 2017 traffic accident.
The courts ruled in summary judgment that law enforcement had not been unreasonable in its search and seizure, that there was not sufficient evidence to support Parada’s claim the traffic stop was unreasonably long and that the arrest of Parada by Coon Rapids Police Officer Nicolas Oman was justified.
However, Parada’s claim that her 14th Amendment rights were violated when she was arrested could lead a reasonable jury to believe he (Oman) had violated her right to equal protection, according to court documents, therefore denying Officer Oman’s request for summary judgment in this charge. Oman’s social media history, which indicates a bias against immigrants and Hispanic people as well as a record that he has stopped six non-Hispanic drivers who lacked licenses but did not arrest them, was considered by the court in reaching that decision.
The courts ruled that Parada may still be able to utilize expert testimony as it relates to her 14th Amendment equal protection rights claim and that a jury will determine if the time she spent at the jail detained was warranted.
Parada also claims that her Fourth Amendment protections were violated because of her time spent in custody. The court ruled that while the arrest was constitutional, the extended detention at the jail would need to be analyzed under the 14th Amendment.
The judge ruled on several motions for summary judgment – which is granted if the party moving for judgment shows there is no genuine issue regarding the facts of the case and therefore the party is entitled to judgment under the law.
Both parties submitted motions on Parada’s equal protection clause claim, in which she argues Anoka County Jail’s unwritten policy of contacting ICE anytime a foreign-born individual is brought to jail violates the 14th Amendment because it discriminates on the basis of national origin.
The court granted Parada’s motion, finding that the policy was not narrowly tailored to further a compelling government interest.
Anoka County and Sheriff Stuart argued that identifying inmates who may be of interest to federal law enforcement was a compelling interest; however, the court notes they made no real argument that the policy is narrowly tailored.
“Indeed, such an argument would be nearly impossible, given the under- and over-inclusive nature of the ACJ policy, which excludes US-born non-citizens, but sweeps up foreign-born US citizens and immigrants who were inspected, admitted, and paroled into the United States, and in whom ICE would have no interest,” the court wrote.
The judge described the policy as “facially unconstitutional” and noted that Anoka County may be held liable. While Parada’s motion was granted, damages are to be decided at trial, according to court documents.
Motions by both the plaintiff and defendants regarding whether Stuart is entitled to qualified immunity were denied, because the court found a genuine dispute of material fact remained as to whether Stuart was involved in applying or interpreting the jail policy of contacting ICE, according to court documents.
A motion by Anoka County and Stuart asking for summary judgment on five charges relating to Parada’s time in jail was denied. The court found a genuine dispute of material facts on whether Parada was held longer than she should have been because she was foreign-born. Due to the dispute the court found the charges should be decided by a jury, thus the motion was denied.
On July 25, 2017, Parada was arrested on misdemeanor charges of driving without a license after she was rear-ended while driving home from her sister’s birthday party, according to court documents.
Oman responded to the call. He attempted to verify both drivers’ identities through the Minnesota driver vehicle database system. He was unable to verify Parada’s identity in this manner, because she lacked a driver’s license.
Parada did provide Oman with a Matricula Consular card – which is identification provided by Mexico – and proof of insurance on the car, which was registered to her stepfather. He did later arrive at the scene, providing his driver’s license and verifying Parada was related to him.
Oman testified he intended to arrest Parada because he determined she likely would not respond to a citation, according to court documents. After her arrest Parada arrived at the Anoka County Jail just before 7:30 p.m. At 9:36 p.m. Parada’s police file indicated her status was changed to ready to release, according to court documents. However, when a new booking deputy took over around 11 p.m., he indicated Parada had not finished the booking process because her file was still on his desk.
Around 11:21 p.m. Anoka County Jail staff contacted U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement because Parada indicated she was a Mexican-born U.S. citizen, according to court documents.
The jail has an unwritten policy requiring its employees to contact ICE whenever a foreign-born individual is detained, according to court documents. Jail staff also attempt to wait to begin release procedures until they hear back from ICE, according to court documents.
Some time later Parada allegedly received a call from ICE while at the jail. During the call she was reportedly advised that the process would go faster if she did not ask for an attorney to be present, according to court documents.
At approximately 11:40 p.m. a warrant for arrest of alien was faxed to the jail, though the jail’s official policy since 2014 is to not honor ICE warrants or detainer requests. ICE agents arrived at the jail around 1:30 a.m., July 26, 2017, and Parada was released into their custody, according to court documents.