BALTIMORE (CN) – A Salvadoran woman says she was jailed for 5 weeks as part of the Frederick County sheriff’s campaign to terrorize Latino immigrants. Sheriff Charles Jenkins won the 2006 election running on an anti-immigrant platform, and last year the county received more than $1 million in reimbursement for holding immigration detainees, according to the federal complaint.
Roxana Santos says she was eating lunch on a grassy curb overlooking a pond and shops when Deputy Sheriff Jeffrey Openshaw and another officer arrested her, sending her first to Customs and Immigration and then to jail. After 5 weeks during which no arrest report or charges were filed, Santos was granted “supervised release for humanitarian concerns,” according to the complaint.
Santos says she has been in the United States since 2005 with her husband and has a 2-year-old son who is a U.S. citizen.
Many other Latinos have faced similar experiences in Frederick County since Sheriff Jenkins said the “single biggest threat to our country is the immigration problem” and that because of it, “we will end up in collapse like a Third World Country,” according to the complaint.
In 2008, Frederick County became the first local agency in Maryland to participate in the 287(g) program run by the office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Through the program, the Department of Homeland Security authorizes local officers to detain “criminal aliens” for immigration.
Santos alleges that the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office uses minor traffic offenses as a pretense to target and interrogate Latinos about their immigration status.
Fewer than 10 percent of Frederick County immigration detainees were charged with felonies, while 50 percent were charged with driving without a license, Santos says. More than 90 percent of the immigration detainees were of Latino descent.
Santos says the deputies who arrested her are not among the 26 Frederick County officers who were trained to participate in the program.
A 2009 report from the Government Accountability Office found that the program lacked management controls and supervision from federal immigration authorities, according to the complaint.
Because there are no clear objectives or guidance about the program in Frederick County, it is ripe for “misuse of authority,” Santos claims.
Santos seeks damages for constitutional and civil rights violations, conspiracy, unlawful seizure and failure to supervise, and an injunction to stop the defendants from interrogating people based on their perceived race or civil immigration violations.
She sued the Frederick County Board of Commissioners, Sheriff Jenkins, Deputy Openshaw, Julie Myers, who is the former assistant secretary for Homeland Security of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Field Office Director Calvin McCormick and Special Agent James Dinkins.
Santos’s lead counsel is John Hayes with Nixon Peabody of Washington D.C.