Jurors heard opening statements Monday in a civil case that alleges Anoka County jail's "unwritten rule" of reporting foreign-born suspects to immigration authorities led to one woman's "nightmare" of wrongful imprisonment and constitutional violations.
In a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, Myriam Parada, 24, of Anoka, says the jail intentionally slow-walked her release after learning she was born in Mexico to keep her in custody until Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents could take her.
Parada is suing Anoka County and its sheriff, James Stuart, over the 2017 detention, originally for driving without a license. On July 25, Parada was driving family members home from her sister's 15th birthday party at a beach in Andover when another driver rear-ended her at a traffic light. Parada showed the officer on the scene her consulate identification, which listed her birthplace as Mexico, and the officer took her to Anoka County jail.
Jail employees notified Immigration and Customs Enforcement of Parada's detention and held her at the jail for seven hours — longer than necessary for the minor traffic violation — in order to stall until ICE could take her, according to Parada's lawyers.
"Anoka County knew exactly what it was doing and what was going to happen to Myriam," Alain Baudry, one of Parada's attorneys, said in opening remarks.
Baudry said Parada was "humiliated" and "embarrassed" by the ordeal and now lives in fear of deportation, even after she has married to an American citizen. "No one can give her her old life back," he said.
Andrew Jackola, assistant Anoka County attorney, did not dispute that the jail has an informal practice of contacting ICE when arresting immigrants. But Jackola said the jail did not keep her in custody longer than other inmates.
"What damages can Ms. Parada prove to you were caused by this practice?" Jackola asked the jury. "Where is her proof that her release was delayed?"
Jackola said, on the contrary, that out of the dozens of inmates arrested that day, Parada was held for the third-shortest period of time.
"She has a story to tell," said Jackola. "Anoka County has a story to tell too."
In tearful testimony, Parada said her mother brought her family to the United States in 2008, when she was 11 years old, on a tourist visa. Her mother decided they would stay in Anoka, and her visa eventually expired. She attended public high school in Anoka, and was finishing her associate degree at a community college when she was arrested.
Parada said the jail gave her a phone with an ICE agent on the other line before she was able to call her family. She asked the jail employee if she needed a lawyer, and he shrugged and told her to ask ICE, she said. She then asked the same question to the ICE agent, "and he told me it would be faster without a lawyer." She described a "nightmare" experience sitting in the jail still in her swimsuit and shorts, until early the next morning, and the trauma that has stuck with her.
The trial, which is being conducted entirely remotely, is expected to last three days.
Andy Mannix • 612-673-4036