On March 27, Las Vegas ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents arrested and detained Cecilia Gomez during what was supposed to be a routine appointment. Gomez has since come forward with her story of ICE agents physically assaulting her during her detention, then attempting to cover it up. Now, Gomez and her legal team are submitting a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to demand answers and evidence of what truly happened during her detainment, and why ICE decided to arrest Gomez in the first place.
What’s happened to Cecilia Gomez since her release?
Since the last time we checked in the Cecilia Gomez case, she’s gotten a major break. The immigration judge presiding over her case has rescinded the order of removal that ICE cited as reason for her deportation. For the time being, Gomez will remain in the U.S. as she fights in court for her right to stay with her family in Nevada.
In addition to her immigration case, Gomez may also take ICE to court over her arrest, detention, and abuse while in federal custody. That’s why Gomez and local immigrant rights activists gathered outside the ICE Las Vegas office earlier today. They returned to ICE to serve them with a FOIA request.
After being detained and released by ICE, Cecilia Gomez and her legal team are serving a FOIA request to demand ans… https://t.co/CVCLq7qMJF
— Andrew Davey (@atdleft) April 26, 2018
“Where are the videotapes of what happened to [Cecilia Gomez] in that interview room? […] Where are the records of ICE and USCIS planning this abusive and devastating deportation?”
– Bliss Requa-Trautz, Arriba Las Vegas Worker’s Center
Just before they formally served ICE with the FOIA request, Bliss Requa-Trautz with the Arriba Las Vegas Worker’s Center began their press conference with a reminder of how this all came about: “ICE, it’s time to come clean. […] Instead of an interview, [Gomez] was lured alone into a room where she was arrested by two ICE officers. She was taken to this building, where she was physically assaulted and whisked away from her family and community. ICE sought to deport her quickly, and without fanfare.”
Requa-Trautz continued, “She now wants ICE and USCIS [U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services] to come clean about what happened to her. Where are the videotapes of what happened to her in that interview room?” She then hinted that ICE has further evidence, and demanded the release of such. “Where are the medical records describing the abuse she suffered? Where are the records of ICE and USCIS planning this abusive and devastating deportation?”
“At this point, they’re on notice. If they go ahead and destroy records, there will be legal ramifications.”
– Laura Barrera, Cecilia Gomez’s attorney
Gomez’s attorney, Laura Barrera with the UNLV Immigration Law Clinic, made clear the consequences if ICE does not provide the information they’re seeking: “If they don’t provide us with [the records], as we’re rightfully entitled to, we will take them to court.”
After the program, I had a few more questions for Gomez and her team. For one, what if ICE is already planning to destroy the records they’re seeking, as ICE has already requested to do in other cases. Barrera responded with this warning: “I think that’s definitely a concern, but that’s not legal for them to do. […] At this point, they’re on notice. If they go ahead and destroy records, there will be legal ramifications.”
“The powers that ICE has are kind of terrifying. [… I]t’s shocking what they have the legal authority to do.”
– Laura Barrera
I then asked why ICE was wrong to deport Cecilia Gomez, someone the agency has labeled as an “illegal alien”. Barrera countered by asking why ICE felt compelled to deport an upstanding member of the community with no criminal record. She stated, “ICE needs to know that they’ll be held accountable for the decisions they’re making. They’re not required to deport every person with an order for removal, or every undocumented person.”
Bliss Requa-Trautz then asked why ICE felt compelled to trick Cecilia Gomez into making her appointment for what could have been her own deportation: “The fact that they planned an operation, going into USCIS, when Cecilia thought she was going to appointment for her green card, that in essence is entrapment. That was totally discretionary for them to do that.”
I then asked whether this kind of operation is legal. Barrera conceded that it might very well be legal, then offered this assessment of why Americans should also question the morality of ICE’s “legal” activities. According to Barrera, “The powers that ICE has are kind of terrifying. They have immense powers, more than any other agency. When you ask whether that’s legal, a lot of things technically are legal, and it’s shocking what they have the legal authority to do.”
“This is a case of abuse of force, and of excessive use of force.”
– Bliss Requa-Trautz
Bliss Requa-Trautz closed our conversation with this concise, yet very incisive, summary of Cecilia Gomez’s case: “This is a case of abuse of force, and of excessive use of force.”
Cecilia Gomez is not the only person to accuse ICE of cruel and unusual punishment, or of lack of due process. Far from it, this agency has done everything from arresting human rights activists who dare to criticize its mission and arresting people who report crimes to falsifying evidence to justify deportation and threatening to arrest elected officials who refuse to cooperate with its deportation agenda. If anything, Cecilia Gomez’s case shines a light on the harrowing reality that immigrant communities now face in Donald Trump’s America. And now that Gomez has opted to fight back, it’s now up to the courts to decide how far the Trump administration can truly go to achieve its deportation goals.