Plaintiffs accuse Sheriff, two deputies of racial profiling during a traffic stop.
Frederick, Md (KM) The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office is facing another racial profiling lawsuit. An organization known as Resources for Immigrant Support and Empowerment (RISE) Coalition of Western Maryland is joining with the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland on behalf of Sara Medrano, a Latina who has lived for more than 13 years in Frederick.
The ACLU says, in a statement, it’s defending Medrano’s Constitutional right to due process and to be protected against unlawful search and seizure.
Nick Steiner with ACLU says on July 7th, 2018, Medrano was driving along Route 15 with her daughter and two grandchildren when she was pulled over by a Sheriff’s Deputy. “We believe, and she believes, as well, that she was racially profiled in that stop. The officer said she was pulled over for a broken tail light. But turned out that her tail light was working fine after she checked it afterward,”: says Steiner.
He says Medrano was asked about her immigration status, and deputies tried to get the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement to come and apprehend her. “They ended up not coming, and so the officers had no choice to let her go with a warning,” Steiner says. “That entire stop and the basis for that stop was unconstitutional.”
“What was found unconstitutional was absent any express authorization from ICE to engage in this kind of behavior,” Steiner explains. “It’s unconstitutional for a local officer to be engaging in immigration enforcement and detaining people on that basis. And that’s exactly what happened to Sara Medrano.”
He says other members of the Latino population in Frederick County say they too have been treated this way by Sheriff’s Deputies. “There are members of the Coalition aside from Ms. Medrano who have been targeted in this way, and detained on the basis of their suspected immigration status because they look a particular way. They look Latino. They look Latino. They look like they’re -quote-unquote-immigrants,” says Steiner.
Sheriff Chuck Jenkins maintains the immigration status of any suspect arrested in Frederick County is determined at the Detention Center, not out on the patrol. The Sheriff’s Office is part of the federal 287g program which lets local police check the immigration status of people they arrest. If they’re here illegally, they will eventually be deported.
The Sheriff’s Office was sued in 2008 by Roxana Orellano Santos. She was detained by deputies after she was observed eating her lunch outside, and tried to hide when law enforcement officers approached.
Steiner says this activity by sheriff deputies makes the immigrant population afraid to approach law enforcement officers to report a crime, or if they were a victim of a crime. “That emotional anxiety, that trauma is what so terrifying to the immigrant community,” he says. “It’s what makes them terrified in even reaching out to the police because there’s a lack of trust in law enforcement in Frederick County.”
Steiner says that needs to change. “The practice of going out into the community and doing immigration enforcement in Frederick County.. And that is the practice we are trying to address,” he says.
The Associate Press reports that the Sheriff’s Office declined to comment about the lawsuit.
Steiner says the plaintiffs are seeking monetary damages. “We requested a jury trial, and the amount of damages, I think, is rightly given to whoever would be on the jury or the court would decide exactly what the monetary amount would be,” he says.
By Kevin McManus