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April 5, 2018

Only Plausible Explanation for the Stop Was the Driver's Ethnicity

LOS ANGELES — The ACLU Foundation of Southern California and law firm of Karlin & Karlin are today filing a motion in immigration court to halt deportation proceedings against Jonathan Mondragon, who was stopped while driving by a Customs and Border Protection agent simply because of the color of his skin.

When Mondragon, who lives in Los Angeles, was pulled over for questioning while on his way home from work, he was not accused of any traffic violation. There was nothing wrong with the car and he had a clean criminal record. Moreover, the CBP officer had no warrant to justify the stop.

"The officer who detained and arrested Mr. Mondragon knew nothing about him," the motion states, "but the fact that he looked Latino."

"We have seen an alarming number of stops like Mr. Mondragon's, where CBP roving patrols rely on racial profiling to pull people over," said Eva Bitran, a staff attorney at the ACLU of Southern California. "Both the Constitution and CBP's own regulations are meant to protect Mr. Mondragon and others like him from these unlawful arrests."

The stop happened in August last year when Mondragon was returning from his construction job laying tile. He was on a highway in the north San Diego county area when a CBP patrol car pulled directly to the right of him and matched his speed, preventing him from taking his intended exit.

When Mondragon was finally able to change lanes, the officer pulled him over and questioned him, asking, "Do you have papers allowing you to be here?"

Mondragon gave his name and date of birth. The officer returned to his car for a few minutes, came back and said, "You do not have papers to be here." But as Mondragon had no criminal or immigration record, the officer had learned nothing more about him that might have provided a probable cause for arrest. Nevertheless, Mondragon was handcuffed so tightly that his wrists were bruised, and he was arrested.

He was taken to a series of facilities, often under harsh conditions, and waited nearly six weeks for his first court hearing. A judge ordered him eligible for release on bond.

The motion being filed today states that from the beginning, the stop was unlawful. “CBP officers violated governing regulations by detaining and arresting Mr. Mondragon without a warrant and individualized reasonable suspicion or probable cause."

"Agents must have reasonable suspicion based on specific, articulable facts," the motion goes to say, "and critically, this suspicion cannot be based on that person's Latino ethnicity."

The motion asks that proceedings against Mondragon in immigration court in Los Angeles be terminated.

Read the motion here: