By Associated Press and Nicole Acevedo
FREDERICK, Md. — A Salvadoran mother and activist who successfully sued a Maryland county for wrongful profiling and arrest has been detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) during a routine check-in.
News outlets report Roxana Orellana Santos was detained Tuesday, less than a week before a court date to determine the extent of damages Frederick County owes.
Orellana Santos sued after Maryland deputies approached her as she ate lunch in 2008 without any cause; her attorneys say it was “for eating while brown” because she is Hispanic. After a check of her records, they arrested her on an outstanding immigration warrant.
A judge ruled the county is liable for the policy permitting deputies to detain people suspected of violating immigration law.
A federal judge wrote in 2017 that it was crucial Santos remained in the country until the case was settled. By being under ICE custody, Orellana Santos faces deportation risks.
Jose Perez, a civil rights attorney with LatinoJustice PRLDEF who has helped Orellana Santos battle her Maryland county lawsuit for over a decade, said the timing is “clearly suspect” and intended to “punish her and deter others.”
Perez told NBC News that ICE’s actions on Tuesday were “clearly done in retaliation” against Orellana Santos, an activist who has advocated on issues regarding racial profiling by a law enforcement agencies through her work in CASA — a Maryland-based Latino and immigration advocacy organization.
“Together with our almost 100,000 members, the CASA community will continue to fight until Roxana is returned to her children. Activists will continue to protest, petition, and pressure ICE to release Roxana back to a community that loves her,” said CASA leader Jesus Vicuña in a statement.
Perez said in a statement that he is planning on “filing an emergency petition” to seek Orellana Santos’ “immediate release from DHS-ICE custody” and stop her “removal from the jurisdiction.”
Juan Cartagena, president and general counsel of LatinoJustice, said that the Aug. 13 “groundbreaking decision” on Orellana Santos’ case established a “critical national precedent limiting the role of local policing agencies in immigration enforcement.”