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ICE Drops Deportation Cases for Two Connecticut Residents Represented by WIRAC Clinic

On February 26, 2014, two Connecticut residents, Gabriel Villanueva-Ojanama and Sebastian Manuel Castro Largo, withdrew a lawsuit filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) in U.S. District Court as part of a settlement negotiated with Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE). Under the terms of the agreement, ICE has terminated deportation proceedings against both men in exchange for dismissal of their claims against ICE.

The two men alleged that ICE had caused their unlawful detention by issuing immigration “detainers,” an administrative notice that does not meet the legal requirements for a warrant, to Connecticut law enforcement authorities. Both men will now be allowed to remain with their families and communities. Villanueva-Ojanama is a 37-year-old resident of Hartford, where he has lived for more than four years. Castro Largo is a 34-year-old resident of Meriden, and he has also lived in Connecticut for more than four years.

“I’m grateful that ICE agreed to terminate my case and recognized how serious and difficult my experience was. I’m glad I can now put this behind me and continue to live here and support my family. I hope that my experience provides a good example for others.” - Gabriel Villanueva-Ojanama

Villanueva-Ojanama and Castro Largo were arrested by police in 2011 in separate incidents and convicted for driving offenses in Connecticut courts. Both were then held by local authorities on the ICE detainers, extending their incarceration several days after the expiration of their criminal custody. ICE often issues detainers in violation of the federal statutes and regulations that govern them, causing local police to unlawfully imprison immigrants while awaiting further investigation by ICE, according to students from the Worker & Immigration Rights Advocacy Clinic at Yale Law School. As a result, students involved in the case say that ICE detainer practices have violated the civil rights and liberties of many immigrants locally and nationally.

Following these incidents, ICE initiated removal proceedings against Villanueva-Ojanama and Castro Largo in 2011. In November 2013, the two men filed suit, seeking damages for their unlawful imprisonment. Shortly afterwards, ICE agreed to drop the deportation cases against each man in exchange for dismissal of their civil rights claims.

“I’m grateful that ICE agreed to terminate my case and recognized how serious and difficult my experience was,” said Villanueva-Ojanama. “I’m glad I can now put this behind me and continue to live here and support my family. I hope that my experience provides a good example for others.”

Because of their family and community ties in Connecticut and their minimal criminal history, neither Villanueva-Ojanama nor Castro Largo constitute an enforcement priority on which ICE resources should be expended, according to students from the clinic. “We are thrilled that ICE agreed to terminate our client’s cases, and we celebrate our clients’ victory,” said Temidayo Odusolu, a law student intern with the Worker & Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic of the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale Law School.

“Mr. Villanueva-Ojanama and Mr. Castro Largo can now return to their lives with peace of mind. We hope this settlement can inform ICE and immigration advocates across the country engaged in ongoing debate over detainers practices.”