GR settles with man wrongfully detained by ICE

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Grand Rapids will pay $190,000 to settle with a U.S. citizen who was wrongfully detained by federal immigration officials.

The settlement with Jilmar Ramos-Gomez to resolve a Michigan Department of Civil Rights complaint came after some five hours of negotiations at City Hall Monday. Written out by hand, it was signed by both sides. The City Commission unanimously approved the payment at its Tuesday evening meeting.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and Michigan Immigrant Rights Center filed the complaint on Ramos-Gomez’s behalf in April, saying Grand Rapids Police Department Capt. Curt VanderKooi discriminated against him based on his race, violating the state’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.

The settlement came after some five hours of negotiations at City Hall Monday. Written out by hand, it was signed by both sides.

“We are satisfied that the parties have been able to resolve this matter without court proceedings. The settlement is not an admission of liability. Rather, it is a resolution of a disputed claim. We hope that all parties can now move forward,” Grand Rapids City Attorney Anita Hitchcock told News 8 in a Wednesday statement.

“Violating people’s civil rights is very expensive because it causes incredible, incredible suffering and incredible harm,” ACLU attorney Marium Aukerman told News 8 Tuesday.

Ramos-Gomez, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, was arrested in November 2018 for setting a fire at a local hospital and breaking onto the helipad. VanderKooi, who was not on duty at the time and did not consult with any of the officers involved in the arrest, called in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

ICE says Ramos-Gomez told its agents he was in the country illegally. That wasn’t true: He was born in the U.S. and has always been a citizen. In fact, he had his U.S. passport with him when he was arrested.

Regardless, ICE detained Ramos-Gomez for three days before his lawyer was able to prove he was a citizen.

“Someone who fights for us, who fights for our country, who comes back harmed as a result of that should not suffer even further because of the color of his skin,” Aukerman said.

VanderKooi, who also referred to Ramos-Gomez as “loco” in an email to ICE, was ultimately suspended for two days for violating the city’s impartial policing policy.

ICE told News 8 in January that none of its agents would face discipline because they “acted in good faith with the information they had available at the time.”

The case prompted the Kent County Sheriff’s Department to change its policy on holding inmates for ICE. It stopped doing so only at ICE’s request and now requires a warrant signed by a federal judge or magistrate.

—News 8’s Barton Deiters contributed to this report.

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