City of Corona pays $35,000 settlement to man turned over to border agents after traffic stop: ACLU

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The city of Corona has paid a man a $35,000 settlement after officials turned him over to Customs and Border Protection during a traffic stop last January, in violation of California’s “sanctuary” law, according to the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California.

The nonprofit filed a complaint against the city on behalf of Daniel Valenzuela, who Corona police pulled over for speeding shortly after dropping off his children at school.

Instead of giving him a ticket, however, officers asked Valenzuela a series of questions about his immigration status before detaining him and contacting federal officials.

According to the ACLU, he was not allowed to leave or make a phone call, and the officers kept him waiting until CBP agents arrived and he was taken into federal custody.

Valenzuela was eventually returned to Mexico.

“The police officers’ actions were clear violations of the California Values Act — also known as the ‘sanctuary state law’ — that prohibits local law enforcement officers in most cases from notifying federal officials of a person’s immigration status,” officials said in a news release announcing the settlement Tuesday. “In addition, the detention violated Valenzuela’s due process and other constitutional rights.”

The ACLU of Southern California filed the complaint against the city last June.

Eva Bitrán, staff attorney at the organization, said that the ACLU will continue to hold law enforcement agencies accountable for failing to comply with the sanctuary law.

“We are all safer when police departments stay out of the business of immigration enforcement,” she said in a statement. “Nobody in this country, regardless of race, national origin, language ability, or immigration status can be detained or arrested without cause.”

Since Valenzuela’s detainment, the Corona Police Department issued a memo to all staffers requiring them to speak with supervisors before contacting immigration authorities. In addition, the department has retrained officers to ensure they know motorists can drive on a foreign license and that it is “improper” for officers to contact immigration authorities to ask about a driver’s status.

The ACLU noted, however, that the changes were not a part of the official settlement.

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