US immigration law leads to arrest of citizens

By E.J. Tamara, AP

LOS ANGELES — Four U.S. citizens were erroneously arrested in Southern California recently through the federal immigration enforcement program called Secure Communities, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said Wednesday.

Secure Communities, administered by U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement, allows fingerprint analysis to identify illegal immigrants in county jails. “We demand that the county and the city of Los Angeles stop collaborating with (ICE) and that the Obama Administration stop Secure Communities once and for all,” said Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. One of the men, Antonio Montejano, said he was arrested Nov. 5 in Santa Monica and spent four days in jail after he forgot to pay for candy his kids ate while shopping at a local Sears store.

He was also arrested because a US$10 bottle of perfume was not scanned, even though he bought US$600 worth of merchandise, the ACLU said.

A Los Angeles County judge ordered Montejano’s release, but he was kept jailed because of an immigration hold, the ACLU said. He was released after the ACLU sent ICE Montejano’s passport and birth certificate.

ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said the cases cited by the ACLU are “highly unusual with unique factual circumstances.”