November 22, 2021
Contact: Lande Watson, 650-291-3300
Riverside County Resident, Civil Rights Groups Sue ICE for Unlawful Arrest
Adding to long history of ICE’s violations of Californians’ civil and constitutional rights, new lawsuit underscores need for VISION Act and administrative action
LOS ANGELES — Civil rights groups in California today sued U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for the unlawful arrest of a U.S citizen. The new lawsuit comes as the legislature turns its attention to ending transfers from CDCR to ICE and public outrage at ICE’s unconscionable treatment of community members grows. The suit exposes how the federal immigration agency violates people’s civil and constitutional rights and how CDCR’s entanglement with ICE directly harms Californians.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus, the ACLU Foundation of Northern California, and the law firm Sidley Austin LLP represent Brian Bukle, a Black resident of Riverside County who has lived in the United States since he was a toddler and has been a U.S. citizen for over 50 years. When Mr. Bukle was incarcerated in 2018, he repeatedly told CDCR officers that he was a U.S. citizen, but CDCR chose to report him to ICE for deportation and turn him over to ICE’s private contractors. ICE also ignored Mr. Bukle’s pleas and refused to investigate his claim to U.S. citizenship, detaining him for over a month during a COVID-19 outbreak until an immigration attorney intervened.
“ICE and CDCR didn’t care about me or my life,” said Brian Bukle. “After I served my sentence I thought I would be going home to see my son for Father’s Day. Instead, I came this close to being deported and losing everything, a nightmare that has stayed with me to this day. CDCR and ICE continually harm Black and immigrant families whether or not we are U.S. citizens.”
“ICE has continually flouted its obligations under the Constitution and internal policies to avoid arresting U.S. citizens, resulting in Mr. Bukle and others like him being detained in dangerous and life-threatening conditions for weeks or months at a time,” said Vasudha Talla, Immigrants’ Rights Program Director at the ACLU of Northern California.
ICE has history of abuse and discrimination, harming immigrants and their communities
Last month, two dozen California lawmakers sent a letter urging the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to terminate its contracts with three ICE detention centers in California, citing horrendous conditions and continued legal violations.
Black immigrants are significantly more likely to be targeted for deportation and come in contact with the abusive agency: 7% of non-citizens in the U.S. are Black, and yet they make up a full 20% of those facing deportation on criminal grounds, according to Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI). And they are treated disproportionately harshly by ICE—Black immigrants are six times more likely to be sent to solitary confinement and Haitian immigrants pay much higher bonds than other immigrants in detention. ICE also acts in violation of federal law, using a private contractor with its own history of misconduct to arrest immigrant community members from jail and prison, according to a class-action lawsuit against ICE filed earlier this year by Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus, ACLU NorCal, and the law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP.
“The way every person in this country is treated by our government and its agencies is an issue with real-world implications for us all,” said Sean Commons, a partner with Sidley Austin LLP. “This litigation reflects our firm’s commitment to the principle that all people have the right to live freely, proudly, and with equal protection under the law.”
Double punishment through detention and deportation by ICE looms over many Californians, including Marisela Andrade, a 44-year-old immigrant and survivor of domestic violence. Ms. Andrade dedicated her years in prison to rehabilitation and to healing herself and other survivors from trauma, but California could still transfer her to ICE for detention and deportation upon her release.
“After serving my time, all I want is to go home to my family. I work every day to be a better person and even though the State of California recognized that by commuting my sentence, I still face detention and deportation by ICE. I ask Governor Newsom to stop the double punishment of immigrants and to end his partnership with ICE, which tears families like mine apart,” said Ms. Andrade who is set to be released from state prison on November 26th after earning her commutation and parole.
“It’s time for California to stop collaborating with ICE, which has proven time and time again that it has no regard for the humanity of the people it detains, whether immigrants or citizens,” said Jenny Zhao, senior staff attorney at Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus. “Governor Newsom and the legislature need to step up and stop ICE transfers once and for all with the VISION Act.”
The VISION Act (AB 937 – Carrillo) would end CDCR’s collaboration with ICE and will resume moving through the legislative process in January. The bill won support from California’s Democratic Party, the Black Legislative Caucus, the Latino Legislative Caucus, the API Legislative Caucus, numerous city and county governments, the California Labor Federation and other labor unions, and over 100 community organizations. City and county governments, as well as the district attorneys of Los Angeles and San Francisco, have called attention to how ICE transfers harm their communities. A poll this year by the University of California San Diego found a vast majority of Californians support the legislation.
About Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus
Asian Law Caucus (ALC) was founded in 1972 as the nation’s first legal and civil rights organization focusing on the needs of low-income, immigrant and underserved Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Recognizing that social, economic, political, and racial inequalities continue to exist in the United States, ALC is committed to the pursuit of equality and justice for all sectors of our society.
About the ACLU of Northern California
The ACLU of Northern California is an enduring guardian of justice, fairness, equality, and freedom, working to protect and advance civil liberties for all Californians.