Did paying traffic ticket land man in deportation proceedings?

Did paying traffic ticket land man in deportation proceedings? »Play Video
Luciano Sandoval shows his ankle monitor Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, from his arrest by immigration officers, which came after he visited a courthouse in Bakersfield, Calif., to pay a traffic fine. (KBAK/KBFX photo)

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — The American Civil Liberties Union is accusing Immigration and Customs Enforcement of violating its commitment to no longer conduct enforcement actions at Kern County courthouses.

"(ICE) is using information they gather from the courthouse and using that to conduct arrest and enforcement actions," said ACLU staff attorney Michael Kaufman. "That's exactly what ICE national told us they were going to stop doing."

Luciano Sandoval, 41, of Bakersfield, went to pay a traffic citation on Feb. 3. Sandoval said that three days later, he was on his way to work early in the morning. The car he was in was pulled over on Union Avenue between Fairview Road and Pacheco Road. Sandoval said ICE agents never told the driver why they stopped the vehicle, and Sandoval was the only one arrested for being in the country illegally.

Sandoval said he came to the United States from Mexico in 1992 and has never had any serious brushes with the law. His only contact with law enforcement is for traffic-related tickets.

He said his arrest by ICE is related with his recent visit to pay his traffic ticket. ICE placed an ankle bracelet on Sandoval, and he was released from custody.

In October 2013, ACLU documented cases in which ICE agents arrested people at courthouses as they attempted to pay tickets or applied for marriage licenses. ACLU claimed such arrests undermine public safety.

"This type of enforcement actions really deter people from going  to the courthouse from complying with their legal obligations," said Kaufman.

In response, ICE agreed to stop such practices.

In a letter to the ACLU dated Jan. 10, ICE Executive Associate Director Thomas Homan wrote, "Accordingly, at this time, ERO (Enforcement and Removal Operations) has decided to refrain from taking enforcement actions at the KCSC, except in exigent circumstances."

Kaufman said ICE executed "a classic bait and switch." While immigration agents have refrained from conducting arrests at the courthouse grounds, they have arrested unsuspecting people after they leave the courthouse grounds, said Kaufman.

ICE would not comment on Sandoval's case other than to say it is under review.

ICE Public Affairs Officer Lori K. Haley issued the following statement: "U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is focused on sensible, effective immigration enforcement that prioritizes efforts first on individuals who present the greatest risk to public safety and border security, taking into consideration each individual's circumstances and the specific facts of each case."

Kern County Superior Court Executive Office Terry McNally said court personnel are not directly involved with any enforcement actions taken by ICE.