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December 4, 2020

Court Finds that Immigration Officials Unlawfully Arrested Man at Bus Stop

LOS ANGELES — Edgar Solano of Los Angeles was simply standing in line for a bus home at the Greyhound station in Indio, California in 2018 when plain-clothed federal agents approached, briefly questioned him, and then seized him, put him in handcuffs and took him to an immigration detention facility.

But the U.S. Immigration Court in L.A. has issued an order that the arrest by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers violated the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Before Solano was detained, the court order says, the officers “merely knew his name, his place of residence, and appearance. However, these are not appropriate factors in establishing the requisite reasonable suspicion.”

The order further read, “A reasonable CBP officer should have known that he or she was violating the Fourth Amendment by seizing Respondent based on his Latino appearance alone.”

The court ordered deportation proceedings against Solano be terminated.

The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California and the law firm Lucas & Barba LLP represented Solano.

“As the court correctly concluded, the detention of Mr. Solano based on racial profiling was an egregious violation of his constitutional rights” said ACLU SoCal Staff Attorney Eva Bitrán. “We know, however, that such arrests are common practice. We hope today’s decision will serve as a warning to federal immigration officials that their lawlessness will not stand.”

The incident occurred on January 11, 2018. Solano, who works as a handyman, had a wide-ranging set of clients and that day was doing a repair job in Indio. Because his car was out of order, he was traveling by bus and planned to take the 9:25 p.m. Greyhound home to L.A. The bus was more than an hour late.

When the bus finally arrived, Solano stood in line to board. But two plain-clothed men approached him and asked him his name and where he lived. Solano answered truthfully. Then the men, who had not identified themselves, asked Solano to step out of line and show identification. He told them he would rather not — if delayed he would miss the last bus home for the night.

But one of the men ordered him out of line, took him by the arm and steered him toward an unmarked pickup truck in the parking lot as the other man motioned to the bus that it could leave. When they got to the truck, Solano’s hands were handcuffed behind him.

At that point the agents had already violated the Fourth Amendment and regulations. Longstanding court rulings have held that immigration agents cannot detain a person without reasonable suspicion based on specific facts. Most importantly, the courts have ruled that the suspicion cannot be merely based on ethnicity.

But Solano was arrested and spent more than two months in a detention facility before getting a bond hearing.

Read the Immigration Court decision here:

Read the 2018 motion by the ACLU SoCal and Lucas & Barba here: