Federal Court Judge rules Nixon Peabody client’s rights were violated in immigration enforcement arrest

September 27, 2018

Senior Manager, Media Relations
Nicholas Braude

Baltimore, MD.A Maryland Federal District Court Judge has ruled that the constitutional rights of Nixon Peabody pro bono client Roxana Orellana Santos were violated when she was unlawfully seized and arrested, based solely on a civil immigration warrant, by two Fredrick County Sheriff Office deputies.

The September 27, 2018, decision granted plaintiff summary judgment in Santos v. Frederick County Board of Commissioners et al. and is expected to set precedent in holding municipalities accountable for aggressive immigration enforcement tactics by local law enforcement, as well as limiting their ability to act independently in such matters.

“After nearly nine years of litigation, we are pleased that the district court agreed that the county is liable for the violation of Roxana’s rights,” said Nixon Peabody’s associate Brian Whittaker, co-counsel for the plaintiff based in Washington, D.C. “We hope this decision will serve as a roadblock for local law enforcement that independently engage in unlawful and aggressive immigration enforcement.”

Ms. Orellana Santos was eating lunch before work on October 8, 2008, when she was detained and then arrested by two Frederick County deputies. They were operating under directives from the County government that allowed them to detain individuals they suspected of having an outstanding immigration warrant.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2013 that the police acted beyond their lawful authority in arresting Ms. Orellana Santos based upon a civil immigration warrant, in clear violation of her Fourth Amendment right to be free from unwarranted searches and seizures.

Nixon Peabody’s John Hayes, senior counsel based in Washington, D.C., also served as co-counsel for the plaintiff.

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