Myriam Parada was driving her younger relatives home from a birthday party one evening last summer when a driver rear-ended her car as they waited at a red light.
By sundown, the 21-year-old Ramsey woman was in jail. By morning, she was in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody at the outset of a still-ongoing fight against her deportation.
On Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota (ACLU) announced a federal lawsuit on Parada's behalf against the Anoka County Sheriff's Office and Coon Rapids Police Department for allegedly unlawfully detaining Parada based on her "race and national origin."
"I was the victim of a car accident, but instead of helping me, Coon Rapids police just called ICE," Parada said in a news release announcing the lawsuit. "No one should fear deportation because they needed help from the police."
According to the lawsuit, a Coon Rapids police officer allowed the driver that hit Parada's car to leave without a citation but arrested Parada because he was "unable to positively identify her." The lawsuit said the officer who arrested Parada did not arrest anyone else he cited for driving without a license in the previous year.
A Coon Rapids police spokesman said Thursday that it is not unheard-of for officers to apprehend people who are unable to provide identification.
Parada's attorneys said she provided a Mexican Consulate card as photo identification, but a Coon Rapids police officer told Parada and her family that a supervisor instructed him to bring her in to be fingerprinted.
"I need to make sure who you are," said the officer, who allegedly insisted that it would just take a couple of hours.
Instead, Parada spent seven hours at Anoka County jail before being transferred to ICE custody. The lawsuit cited jail records that showed Parada was free to leave before ICE arrived but Anoka County officials refused to release her to family. ICE agents handcuffed her and transferred her to Sherburne County jail, an ICE holding facility, and told family that they could pay an immigration bond to release her.
Anoka County Sheriff James Stuart said Thursday that the county does not hold jail inmates based solely on ICE detainers, but does "make timely notifications in case they wish to respond in a timely manner."
"Based on what I know, our staff acted properly and in accordance with our policy and best practices," Stuart said.
In a complaint that accused Anoka County of maintaining "an organizational animus toward immigrants," Parada's attorneys wrote that jail officials refused to advise Parada that she could decline to speak with immigration officials.
The lawsuit said ICE officials relied on an unsigned administrative warrant for her arrest that is more commonly used in civil rather than criminal immigration proceedings.
"Myriam Parada was targeted because she is a Latina immigrant," said Teresa Nelson, legal director of the ACLU-MN. "She should not have been arrested, and she should not have been held in jail for ICE, she should have been released from custody after she was booked into jail."
The lawsuit claims that the agencies violated Parada's Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights and Minnesota law against false imprisonment. In addition to monetary relief, she is asking for an order "declaring unlawful and enjoining" their policy and "systemic practice" of holding foreigners in the Anoka County jail on any request from ICE.