A jury ruled on Thursday that the Anoka County jail held an immigrant woman longer than legally permissible after arresting her for driving without a license in 2017.
But the jury concluded that Myriam Parada did not suffer damages from jail staff reporting her to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, resulting in her being taken to ICE detention and setting into motion deportation procedures.
The decision marked the end of a four-day civil trial presided over by U.S. Chief Judge John R. Tunheim and the first federal trial that has been held entirely over Zoom in Minnesota to accommodate safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. The jury awarded Parada $30,000 for the harm she suffered through false imprisonment, considerably lower than the $155,000 for which her lawyer asked.
Much of the case focused on Anoka County jail's unwritten policy of notifying ICE when it admits a foreign-born person into the jail. In closing remarks Thursday morning, Alain Baudry, one of Parada's attorneys, said the jail has reported the names of 3,500 immigrant inmates — the majority of whom had legal status — to ICE since 2014 through the "off-the-books ethnic profiling program."
Baudry said the county jail has no legal obligation to report immigrants — regardless of legal status — to federal authorities and its administrators purposely kept this policy unwritten to cover it up.
"What we're dealing with here is not a few bad apples, but an entire system engaged in obvious systemic discrimination," said Baudry.
Parada and Minnesota's chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit in Minnesota's U.S. District Court following her 2017 arrest. Parada, 20 years old at the time, was driving family members home from her sister's birthday party when another driver rear-ended her at a stoplight. The officer who arrived on the scene arrested Parada for driving without a license and took her to the jail.
Parada testified that her mother brought her to the United States from Mexico when she was 11 years old on a tourist visa, and she has lived in Anoka since, attending high school and community college there. Her visa was expired when she was arrested. She is now married to an American-born citizen and is pursuing citizenship.
ICE collected her from the jail around 2 a.m. after she spent about five hours in custody.
Assistant Anoka County Attorney Andrew Jackola did not deny that the jail reports foreign-born detainees to ICE, but he argued they did not hold Parada for longer than necessary to stall for ICE agents to pick her up. "Where is her proof that her release was delayed?" he asked the jury.
Jackola said that out of the dozens of inmates arrested that day, Parada was held for the third-shortest period of time.
Parada and Baudry said that the jail made her talk over the phone to an ICE agent, deflected her questions about needing a lawyer and slow-walked her release in order to hand her over to ICE. She was kept in ICE detention for 15 hours and has since lived in fear of deportation, she said.
"Fifteen hours of additional imprisonment, including a night of terror she spends crying in her cell wondering if she's ever going to see her family again," Baudry said.
Baudry asked the jury to award Parada $155,000 — or $10,000 for every unnecessary hour she spent detained. After the trial, the ACLU released a statement declaring the verdict a victory.
"This verdict sends a powerful message that our jails are committing false imprisonment when they unlawfully hold people for ICE," said Minnesota ACLU attorney Ian Bratlie. "We hope it gives jail officials incentive to respect the U.S. Constitution and the rights of people, regardless of where they are born."
Andy Mannix • 612-673-4036