City of Corona Pays Settlement to Man Turned Over to Border Agents

CORONA, CA — The city of Corona in Riverside County has paid Daniel Valenzuela $35,000 in response to an official complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California.

 In January 2019, Corona police officers detained Valenzuela on the side of the road after a traffic stop, allegedly for speeding. But instead of giving him a ticket, they asked him a series of questions about his immigration status and then contacted the federal Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency. The police officers continued to detain Valenzuela until transferring him to CBP agents.

The police officers’ actions were clear violations of the California Values Act — also known as the “sanctuary state law” — that prohibits local law enforcement officers in most cases from notifying federal officials of a person’s immigration status. In addition, the detention violated Valenzuela’s due process and other constitutional rights.

The payment is a settlement of the ACLU SoCal official complaint filed against the city in June 2019.

“This settlement shows that we will hold law enforcement agencies accountable if they fail to comply with the California Values Act and the Constitution,” said Eva Bitrán, staff attorney at the ACLU SoCal.

“We are all safer when police departments stay out of the business of immigration enforcement. Nobody in this country, regardless of race, national origin, language ability, or immigration status can be detained or arrested without cause.”

Valenzuela was pulled over by Corona police officers shortly after he dropped his children off at school. He was not arrested by the police, and no ticket was issued. But he was not allowed to leave or even make a phone call, and the officers kept him waiting until CBP agents arrived.

The California Values Act that states local law enforcement agencies cannot, with few exceptions, use its “personnel to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect, or arrest persons for immigration enforcement purposes.”

Valenzuela’s arrest by the CBP led to him being returned to Mexico, away from his wife and children.

Although not a formal part of the settlement, the Corona Police Department implemented two changes concerning immigration enforcement since the Valenzuela detainment.

The department issued a memo to all staffers requiring them to speak with supervisors prior to contacting immigration authorities.

The department has re-trained officers to make certain they know it’s permissible to drive on a foreign license and improper for officers to contact immigration authorities to inquire about a driver’s immigration status.

Read the settlement here: https://www.aclusocal.org/sites/default/files/aclu_socal_valenzuela_20 200225_settlement_agreement.pdf

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