While faxes indicating release sat unsent, traumatized victim says he spent weekend in jail becoming so terrified that he
attempted suicide because
of emotional stress
Ramon Mendoza became a naturalized citizen when he married his wife in the 1980s. They had five children, and he worked full time to support the family— until the day police pulled Mendoza over for what the police officer cited as a “window obstruction.”
That was just the beginning of a nightmare for Mendoza that has since ended up in an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit, according to a legal adviser for the organization.
When she spoke on campus opposing LB 48 (the Illegal Immigration Enforcement Act), a bill that would allow police to ask for citizenship papers from anyone suspected of being an illegal immigrant, Amy Miller, the legal director for the Nebraska ACLU, told the story of the man from Papillion who was born in Mexico but came to the United States when he was 12 years old.
When he was pulled over, Mendoza had a small medal from his son’s boxing tournament hanging from his rear view mirror —He also had a small Mexican flag in the back window of his car.
Nebraska law says you can’t have anything hanging from the rear view mirror. The officers asked for Mendoza’s license— which had been suspended from a previous DUI. He ended up at the police station because the license wasn’t valid.
During processing, the officer asked for Mendoza’s birthplace and current address. Miller says the officer didn’t ask if he was a legal citizen, but could have suspected this because of Mendoza’s thick Spanish accent.
When the officers asked Immigration and Customs Enforcement if they should hold him, ICE requested that they hold him. Miller says the officers put Mendoza in a cell with criminals, called him names and said that they were going to make sure he never saw his children again.
Things went from bad to worse, Miller says. Mendoza sat in cell from Friday to Monday and wasn’t told what was going on. When his wife came to the court to get him, police said they were going to send him back to Mexico.
Worried, Mrs. Mendoza went home to get her husband’s passport, marriage certificate and naturalization certificate, but Miller says the officers wouldn’t let her show the documents— and they wouldn’t listen.
On Monday, Mendoza tried to kill himself because of his treatment by the officers and the brutality of jail. That was before local police received ICE faxes that Mendoza was a legal citizen and to let him go. Unfortunately, both of the faxes to the jail were signed and dated Friday, but proof of citizenship was not faxed until Monday morning.
Mendoza contacted the ACLU to sue the city of Fremont. When Miller talked to Mendoza, she said he was so traumatized by the event that he couldn’t tell Miller what happened in the jail.
Miller opposes LB 48— which she says causes racial discrimination based on language, color of skin and accents. She says Mendoza won’t leave his house except to see his therapist, and he has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stess disorder.
According to the Nebraska Legislature website, LB 48 has not been passed, but police are getting ready for it. They do not want to do the work of ICE because they do not have the time to take the extra duty, and they do not want people to be scared of them and what they will be doing.
Counties are required to have separate facilities to house suspected illegal immigrants and criminals, but only Lexington, Grand Island and Douglas county have such facilities.
Nebraska Legislature has proposed an anti-immigrant bill. Legislative Bill 48, known as the Illegal Immigration Enforcement Act, has not been passed yet, but is causing a large amount of controversy.