A US-born Marine veteran who served in Afghanistan had his US passport, a REAL ID driver’s license, a military ID card, and his US Marine Corps dog tags with him when he was arrested by police in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which held him for three days before his lawyer demanded his release, according to the ACLU of Michigan.
The advocacy group has called for an investigation into how the Grand Rapids Police Department handled the arrest of Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, who was born in Grand Rapids, served in Afghanistan and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. The ACLU is also demanding that ICE explain why it took the veteran into custody and did not review his identification documents during the three days he was being held.
Ramos-Gomez was arrested by the Grand Rapids Police on Nov. 21 on suspicion of attempting to start a fire in a stairwell at a hospital and trying to reach the facility’s helipad, according to his attorneys and local law enforcement. A police statement at the time said police contacted ICE because they believed the incident may have been a possible act of terrorism. That decision eventually led to Ramos-Gomez ending up in ICE custody.
The ACLU said that Ramos-Gomez’s possession of his passport, Real ID, and other items at the time of his arrest is detailed in a Grand Rapids police report.
“I think it raises all sorts of questions,” said Miriam Aukerman, a senior attorney with the ACLU of Michigan, which has taken up the case. “[Police] had absolutely no reason to call ICE when [they] knew that Jilmar was a U.S. citizen. Yet they did so anyway. Why? One can’t imagine this happening to a white person who had his passport on him.”
The 27-year-old veteran was set to be released on his own recognizance Dec. 14 after pleading guilty to a trespassing charge, but the Kent County Sheriff’s Office detained him for over an hour at ICE’s request so he could be transferred to its custody.
He remained in ICE custody until Dec. 17, when his attorney called and provided documentation that he was a US citizen.
ICE has said that Ramos-Gomez told them he was undocumented during an interview in jail and that they took action afterward. The ACLU of Michigan believes that such a claim raises the question about ICE’s lack of investigation.
“It is appalling that ICE tries to avoid responsibility and blame the victim by claiming Jilmar said he was not a citizen. What kind of investigation does ICE do before it puts a detainer on someone?” Aukerman said. “The fact that ICE is steadfastly refusing to answer questions, provide information, or take responsibility means that ICE is also steadfastly refusing to learn from this situation. The predictable result will be that ICE will continue to detain and try to deport more US citizens like Jilmar.”
Since the ACLU publicized the case last week, the Kent County Sheriff’s Department has announced that it will no longer detain individuals for ICE without a warrant from a judge, effectively enacting a sanctuary-like policy.
“The additional requirement of independent judicial review will increase the level of oversight of ICE detention requests in Kent County. Our justice system is built on a balance of authority and oversight. For that reason, we advocate for the requirement that all ICE detention requests be subject to judicial review at a national level,” Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young said in a statement Friday.