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Court ruling forbids arrests based on illegal immigration suspicions

Immigration

A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday in a case involving a Salvadoran woman arrested in Frederick that state and local authorities cannot arrest or detain someone on the suspicion that they are in the country illegally.

The case involves the 2008 arrest of Roxana Orellana Santos, who was sitting outside her workplace in Frederick eating a sandwich when two deputies approached and began questioning her. After checking her identification and consulting with dispatchers, the deputies determined that Santos had a civil immigration warrant requiring her immediate deportation, according to court records.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court's ruling last year that her detention did not violate the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The appeals court, in its written opinion, concluded that the civil immigration warrant "did not provide the deputies with a basis to arrest or even briefly detain Santos." The court said the deputies could not be sued on an individual basis, though the government entities could.

Santos was held in an immigration detention facility for more than a month after the incident, and in 2009, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, CASA de Maryland and the law firm Nixon Peabody filed suit on her behalf.

"It is apparent that the Frederick County deputies pre-textually stopped, questioned and detained Ms. Orellana Santos solely based upon her physical appearance at a time when the Frederick County Sheriff was publicly trumpeting how many immigrants his office had arrested," Jose Perez, an attorney with LatinoJustice PRLDEF, said in a statement.

Frederick County Sheriff Charles A. Jenkins could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening.

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