(CN) – An immigrant-rights group has won a narrow victory in a civil rights complaint filed in response to Sonoma County’s alleged practice of stopping and detaining Latinos in order to check on their immigration status.
The Committee for Immigrant Rights of Sonoma County and several individuals filed suit against the Department of Homeland Security, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), three federal agents, and Sonoma County and its sheriff and deputy sheriff.
They accused the defendants of working together to illegally target Latino citizens of Sonoma County, using race as the motivating factor to stop and detain these residents to check on their immigration status. County officials, under the approval of ICE agents, routinely arrest Latino members of the community and hold them in county jail until ICE issues an immigration detainer, the plaintiffs claimed.
These allegedly illegal detentions can last between three and five days, according to the advocacy group.
In a lengthy ruling, U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton in San Francisco agreed with the plaintiffs that federal agents can be sued in their individual capacities for the alleged civil rights violations, because the Supreme Court has ruled that actions for money damages may be brought against individual federal agents for their unconstitutional conduct.
In so ruling, Judge Hamilton declined to dismiss the case, but granted the defendants’ motion for a more definite statement.