Things That Matter

Louisiana Police Detained A US Citizen After A Judge Cleared His Release Because He’s A Latino

On Aug. 31 2018, Ramon Torres was pulled over based on the suspicion of driving while intoxicated. Torres refused to take a breathalyzer test. As a consequence, he was arrested and jailed. The next day, a judge ordered his release, however, he was not immediately let go. Instead, the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office placed Torres on an “immigration hold.” 

Torres is originally from Honduras, but arrived to the United States with his family when he was a child. In 2009, he became a naturalized citizen.  

Those who know Torres, attempted to intervene and supplied the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office with documents, such as his birth certificate, social security card, and U.S. passport, proving that he was a citizen. These documents should have been enough to confirm Torres’ citizenship. Yet, their efforts were ignored and he was kept for a total of four days. 

Torres was released only after his friend hired a lawyer. 

“The increasing national rhetoric of fear and racism around immigration is tearing apart our local communities,” said Katie Schwartzman, the legal director of the ACLU of Louisiana. 

This week,  the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana filed a suit on behalf of Torres. According to the suit, Torres was held for immigration review due to the color of his skin and his Latinx sounding name. It is an example of racial profiling, an act that is both illegal and unconstitutional. 

Torres’ Fourth and Fourteenth amendment rights were violated. As a result, the ACLU is seeking to award him compensation for his unlawful detention. 

The ACLU is blaming the harmful rhetoric that is currently being spread throughout the country. The line has to be drawn between local law enforcement and federal immigration. Local authorities are there to protect, but time after time, their actions stem from the damaging comments said by government official and their own racial biases. 

As a reminder, it is not the duty of local law authorities to enforce immigration policies, especially when they are unconstitutional and unjust. Law enforcement should be able to recognize when protocols are wrong to conduct and hold each other accountable in order to do their duty to protect their community instead of harming it. 

Immigrant communities are being unfairly targeted, harassed, and terrorized by the very law enforcement agencies that should be protecting them.

According to the suit filed by the ACLU, Torres asked why he was still being held by law enforcement and received a response by an individual who said it was a policy of the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office to automatically hold every Latinx person to conduct a thorough investigation of their immigration status. 

This policy is more than questionable. The intention the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office claims to have is to prove that the people they are holding are U.S. citizens. However, when presented with the right and lawful documents they turn a blind eye. It is not a matter of serving their community. In this case, the deputies are looking to terrorize Latinx folks. It is a tactic that has been used in this country before. For example, sheriff Joe Arpaio who conducted traffic patrols that targeted immigrants in Arizona. Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt because of his tough scare-tactics against immigrants, but was pardoned by Donald Trump when he took office. 

What kind of message does that send to local law authorities? For starters, without accountability, people like Arpaio and those at the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office know that they can get away with harassing Latinx people because they are backed by an administration that shares their same beliefs. Furthermore, it makes it seem okay for the people in power to bully immigrants into hiding. They are demonstrating that Latinx folks are the ‘other’ and it does not matter if they are citizens or not. We aren’t welcome. 

Policies like the one the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office has in place do more harm than good, thus feeding into laws that are rooted in xenophobia.

If it happened to Torres, who is a citizen of the United States, imagine the many people that have to face the same thing every day – some of which may be citizens or are undocumented. People shouldn’t have to worry about carrying multiple forms of identification with them 24/7 or that these documents won’t be enough to support them, but it’s a reality for many due to the unjust profiling that occurs. 

Immigrants are thought of as easy targets, but organizations like the ACLU are attempting to change that by fiercely defending their rights. In their press release, the ACLU states that their goal is to “continue the fight against all forms of anti-immigrant bias and discrimination. The safety and wellbeing of our communities depend on it.” 

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