Spokane, Wash. – An illegal immigrant was paid a settlement after an officer detained him to help enforce his immigration status.
The city of Spokane paid $49,000 to Mexican national Gabriel Gomez as part of a settlement for the a lawsuit.
The settlement was finalized Jan. 9 and also has the city of Spokane changing its policies to make it clear that police officers will not question or detain people to enforce federal immigration laws, KREM-TV reported.
Gomez was driving Aug. 24, 2014 when he was hit by a minivan that failed to yield the right of way, according to Gomez’s attorneys.
The attorneys claimed the police officer who showed up at the scene had contacted the United States Border Patrol to ask if they had interest in Gomez, who is Latino. His attorneys claim he was singled out due to his race.
Officials said the officer issued a citation to the other driver and let them leave the scene. Gomez was then detained at the scene until Border Patrol arrived and took him into custody.
The attorneys said that Gomez has a pending application for legal status to remain in the U.S. Gomez’s attorneys said he was injured but didn’t receive medical attention.
Instead, the Border Patrol took him into custody and he was moved by immigration officials to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma. Gomez remained there until he posted bond.
The lawsuit claimed that city policies allow police officers to unlawfully seize people to investigate and enforce immigration violations, according to KREM.
Non-federal law enforcement officers in the U.S. generally cannot enforce immigration law without being granted extra authority from both the federal government and their agency. While calling immigration authorities would be legal, prolonged detentions for immigration enforcement is not.
The city has agreed to modify its policies to clarify that police “shall not contact, question, delay, detain or arrest an individual because s/he is suspected of violating immigration laws,” according to KREM.
“I have lived in this community for many years, and to suddenly have the police turn against me after being a victim in the accident really turned my life upside down,” said Gomez. “I am happy for this settlement. I want to be able to trust the police.”