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ACLU says records show racial profiling, mocking of Marine detained by ICE

"Here is an officer who sees someone who is Latino, who has a Latino sounding name, and contacts ICE," a staff attorney at the ACLU of Michigan said.
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The American Civil Liberties Union released records Monday that it says show a police officer racially profiling a U.S. citizen and Marine veteran who was detained for deportation and mocking his disability.

Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, a former Marine who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, was held for three days in an immigration facility in Michigan in December for possible deportation until his attorney intervened, according to the ACLU. He was born in Michigan.

The ACLU said in a statement that the documents it released show Grand Rapids police Capt. Curt VanderKooi “racially profiling” and mocking Ramos-Gomez in his interactions with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“Here is an officer who sees someone who is Latino, who has a Latino sounding name, and contacts ICE,” Miriam Aukerman, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Michigan, told NBC News.

Jilmar Ramos-Gomez
Jilmar Ramos-Gomezvia ACLU of Michigan

Ramos-Gomez was arrested on Nov. 21 after he allegedly set a small fire, pulled an alarm and trespassed on a heliport at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids, according to police.

A timeline of events provided by the ACLU said that Ramos-Gomez’s U.S. passport was in his bag at the time he was arrested.

"They took a photograph of his passport when they logged his property into evidence. They knew he was a U.S. citizen," Auckerman said.

Police later interviewed Ramos-Gomez and realized “he has mental health issues,” according to the timeline.

Midmorning on Nov. 21, a police sergeant sent a text to an FBI agent saying the case involves a “Vet, PTSD, But not a FBI issue,” according to the timeline and an image of the message included in the ACLU’s statement.

Later that evening, VanderKooi watched a news report about the arrest and emailed Derek Klifman, an ICE officer, according to the timeline and the documents.

“Could you please check his status?” the email began.

A separate ICE officer emailed VanderKooi on Nov. 23 and said he interviewed Ramos-Gomez and determined “he is a foreign national illegally in the U.S.,” according to the documents. The ICE officer said Ramos-Gomez would be brought into custody when he was released from his criminal case.

ICE has said in a statement that Ramos-Gomez claimed he was in the U.S. illegally during the interview and lodged a detention request with police based on his statements.

Vanderkooi emailed back on Nov. 26 with the subject line “Spectrum Helicopter Pad Loco,” using the Spanish word for crazy.

“It is not clear what mad intent was involved in this breach of hospital security but here is the report,” the email said, according to the documents.

Image: Jilmar Ramos-Gomez military company
Jilmar Ramos-Gomez in his US Marine military company in San Diego, CA on January 13, 2012.via ACLU of Michigan

Another police officer forwarded that message to a prosecutor, who responded: “I am confused. Didn’t his property have a U.S. Passport in it? And he was a veteran?!”

“Who knows, not sure it was a US passport. … I am not sure about the vet thing,” the officer responded.

Ramos-Gomez pleaded guilty to trespassing and was released on his own recognizance on Dec. 14, according to the ACLU. He was then taken into ICE custody, where he was held until Dec. 17 when his family’s attorney intervened, according to the ACLU. ICE said it reviewed documents provided by the lawyer suggesting Ramos-Gomez was a citizen and authorized his release.

Auckerman said VanderKooi's mocking of the veteran showed "disrespect for our men and women in uniform as well as for people with disabilities."

In a statement Friday, the Grand Rapids Police Department said the officer who contacted ICE “did so solely on the nature" of Ramos-Gomez's actions.

"Contacting ICE is not a routine part of our investigative process. Rather, we did this in light of the potential risk to the public’s safety, specifically through a possible act of terrorism," Interim Police Chief David Kiddle said in the statement. Kiddle added the investigation determined the officer used “unprofessional language” in his interactions with ICE, which was addressed with the officer.

When asked for comment on the ACLU's statements on Monday, police referred back to their Friday statement.

Aukerman said the response shows "police can't police themselves."

"What you see is even when you have blatant discrimination, blatant racial profiling, the officer involved is not held accountable," she said.