DENVER – An immigrant suspected of being in the country illegally could receive $90,000 to settle a lawsuit claiming he was unlawfully held in a suburban Denver jail for 47 days, the American Civil Liberties Union said Tuesday.
Luis Quezada, 37, agreed to a $40,000 settlement with the Jefferson County sheriff's office, which held him at the request of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in May 2009, according to the lawsuit.
Earlier this month, ICE reached a $50,000 settlement with Quezada, but the agency acknowledged no wrongdoing in the case. ICE said in a statement that it settled the case to avoid lengthy legislation.
Sheriff's spokesman Mark Techmeyer said his office couldn't comment because the case still needs to be considered by the county commissioners.
During a traffic stop, a police officer discovered that Quezada was wanted for failing to appear in court on other traffic violations.
Quezada was jailed and ICE notified the sheriff's office that he was suspected of being in the country illegally. The federal agency asked local officials to hold Quezada while his case was investigated, the Colorado ACLU said in the lawsuit.
The so-called ICE detainers are typically meant to last no more than two business days, according to the lawsuit.
After a few days in jail, a Jefferson County judge sentenced Quezada to time served for the traffic issue and the jail alerted ICE officials that Quezada was ready to be released to their custody, the lawsuit said.
After the detainer expired, Quezada remained in jail for 47 more days, but sheriff's officials had no "legal authority to hold Mr. Quezada for his traffic violations or for his failure to appear in court," according to the lawsuit.
ACLU Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein said the settlement agreement with ICE and the sheriff's office sends a message that officers must follow the law while enforcing the law.
"All persons in this country — including persons suspected or accused of immigration violations — have the right to due process of law and the right to be free from arbitrary arrest and arbitrary imprisonment," Silverstein said in a statement.
ICE took custody of Quezada on July 2009 and transferred him to another detention facility in suburban Denver, where he was released on bail while he contests deportation proceedings.
Silverstein said Quezada is unable to talk about the lawsuit because his immigration case is pending.
Silverstein could not disclose where Quezada is from because of his immigration case. But the lawyer said ICE is accusing him of being a Mexican national who entered the country legally in 1999 through El Paso with a temporary border-crossing card.
The conditions of the card required Quezada to not go farther than 25 miles in the U.S. and leave the country within 72 hours, according to the immigration charging document.
Ivan Moreno can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/ivanmoreno_colo