On November 17, 2019, Carlos Rios was arrested by the Washington State Patrol in Pierce County, Washington, allegedly for driving his motorcycle under the influence. Rios was imprisoned in Pierce County Jail, and his belongings were confiscated. Upon his release two days later, he was taken into custody by two U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers. Rios repeatedly told the officers that he was a U.S. citizen, but his protests went unheard.
Now, Rios, a welder at the Port of Everett, is suing ICE for unlawful arrest, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligence. Rios is also seeking compensatory damages totaling $500,000. He is represented in his lawsuit by the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP).
Rios was born in Mexico, entered the U.S. in the 1980s, and has lived here ever since. He became a naturalized citizen in 2000. “I cannot understand why I was detained and why no one listened to me,” he said in a news release issued by the NWIRP.
The Arrest by ICE
Rios said he kept telling the officers who handcuffed him outside the prison that he was a U.S. citizen. No one listened to him, and instead, put him in a van to be transported to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, where he stayed for a week. Ironically, Rios was carrying a passport in his plastic bag but was never given the opportunity to show it to the officers.
His lawsuit says that he was kept in an isolated cell allocated to people who are at risk of self-harm. He slept on the floor. The officers also told him that if he caused trouble, then even his clothes would be confiscated.
Pierce County Prison Notified ICE of Rios’s Release
The officials of the Pierce County Jail had notified ICE that Rios was to be released. However, because county prison officials did not hold him for any additional period, they avoided violating any state laws. Six months ago, Washington State passed a “Keep Washington Working Act,” which prohibits cooperation between the state and immigration officials.
Rios faces the consequences of his disappearance. He claims that he lost his job and that his absence strained his marriage. Rios is seeking $500,000 in compensation for his humiliation and distress.
Wrongful Detention by ICE
U.S. Army veteran and Belize native, Rennison Castillo, was taken to the Tacoma facility, where he was detained for seven-and-a-half months. He was detained despite having repeatedly claimed that he is a naturalized citizen of the United States. In 2010, the U.S Army veteran received a $400,000 settlement and an apology from the Department of Justice. It was around that time that NWIRP investigated and compiled a list of 16 U.S. citizens who were subject to such wrongful detention in Tacoma.
Following many claims of wrongful detention, ICE instituted new policies requiring officers to immediately investigate claims of citizenship and to instantly alert supervisors. ICE has also been warned against conducting discriminatory stops based on the people’s looks and the language they were speaking. The NWRIP has won two $35,000 settlements from the federal government for similar issues.