Did ICE agents beat an undocumented man and force him to snitch or be deported? This immigrant father says they did
One year ago this week, undocumented immigrant Carlos Alfred Rueda Cruz said he was inside a holding room at the downtown Sacramento Immigration and Customs Enforcement office when federal agents physically attacked him to force him to sign a voluntary deportation order.
Rueda said the assault came after his refusal to turn in other undocumented people in the Sacramento area in exchange for being allowed to stay in the United States with his wife and three children.
Wednesday, Rueda stood outside the federal immigration building to announce he has filed a $750,000 claim against Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, a precursor to a federal lawsuit.
His claim detailed a months-long campaign by ICE agents to coerce him into being an informant. He said the effort included violence, and ended only after he was held down and forced to put his fingerprint on papers that would remove him from the country.
It “wasn’t my role” to be an informant, Rueda, 28, said in an interview Wednesday through an interpreter. “Every time I had to check in with ICE ... I would say goodbye to my family and commend (myself) to God’s will.”
ICE spokesman Richard Rocha said the agency couldn’t comment on pending litigation but, “I can tell you that ICE does take seriously any allegation of misconduct.”
Rueda was placed on an order of supervision by ICE in March 2017 after police stopped him on his way to his job as a roofer, he said. Police didn’t arrest him, but immigration authorities required he come to the Capitol Mall federal office once a month to check in.
Rueda said during these interviews, ICE officers gave him a choice: Be deported, or turn in others who could be.
Rueda said in claim documents that an ICE agent in Sacramento told him to look for other undocumented people who had criminal convictions, or engaged in criminal activity such as driving under the influence. But as the months went on without Rueda providing names, his lawyer, Luis Angel Reyes Savalza, said the agents pushed him to name people without criminal convictions as well.
“At some point ICE got so desperate they were asking Carlos to turn in people who were just suspected of committing crimes,” said Savalza.
Rueda told the agents he didn’t know anyone with convictions or criminal behavior and wouldn’t lie about those people he did know, he said.
“Carlos was put in an impossible situation where he had to choose between himself and his family and other immigrants,” said Savalza. “Carlos stood steadfast and he stood strong by his immigrant community and he refused to fabricate stories in order to benefit himself.”
The agents grew “frustrated,” according to the claim, yelling at Rueda and threatening to deport his family.
On Sept. 26, 2017, Rueda said he was detained during his monthly check-in and told he was being deported for failing to turn in others. After being held in the office for hours, Rueda said he was brought into a room with three ICE officers. One demanded he sign a paper written in English, though Rueda does not speak or read English.
He refused to sign without knowing what it was or speaking with an attorney, he said. Eventually, an agent told him it was a order for deportation to Mexico, and said Rueda “had no choice,” the claim documents alleged.
When Rueda continued to refuse, he said two agents put on black gloves, grabbed his arms and twisted them behind his back. Another agent slammed his head on the table, he said. A fourth officer then attempted to force Rueda’s finger onto an ink pad to use his print as a signature on the document, but Rueda made a fist. Rueda said he was screaming, and the agents stopped their attack.
He was sent to Rio Consumnes Correction Center, and told he would be brought back the next day to sign the order, he said. He was returned to the downtown ICE offices early the next morning.
Rueda claimed he was again assaulted by agents, including some of those who had allegedly attacked him the day before.
Rueda alleged after he again refused to sign and was told he didn’t have a right to a lawyer, his head was slammed on the table by an agent. Other agents “jumped on top of him, kneed him on his ribs and sides forcibly,” according to the claim. His arms were twisted behind his back, and an agent attempted to force his fingerprint on the deportation order, he said.
The abuse continued until his fingerprint was obtained, he said. He was sent back to detention, where he was able to contact a lawyer.
Savalza said his firm has been able to have Rueda’s deportation orders stayed based on the claim of the false fingerprint. Rueda is currently seeking asylum.
Savalza said this was the first case in which he’s personally seen an undocumented immigrant being pressured to inform on others, though it’s a tactic he said is common in other federal agencies.
“The snitch clause that was inserted into his order of supervision, I certainly have never seen that,” Savalza. “All of this to me makes me question the methods of investigation that are being used by ICE at a time when the Trump administration is casting such a wide net.”