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December 6, 2017

Contact: Sejal Zota | | 617-227-9727 ext. 108
Contact: Jessey Neves | | (562) 453-6342

Wilmer Catalan-Ramirez Clears Name after Nightmare Immigration Raid

CHICAGO – A settlement has been reached between the City of Chicago and Wilmer Catalan-Ramirez, whose false inclusion in the Chicago Police Department’s “Gang Database” and the sharing of that information with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) triggered a nightmarish chain of events that left him imprisoned, in severe physical pain and mental anguish, and fighting deportation.

Catalan-Ramirez, represented by the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, filed a federal lawsuit against ICE and the City of Chicago in May of this year. The suit alleged violations of unreasonable search and seizure, and due process protections in the U.S. Constitution. The suit also alleges that the manner in which CPD gathers and disseminates false information about gang membership violated the Illinois Civil Rights Act, which prohibits racial and ethnic discrimination. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents relied on false records alleging Mr. Catalan-Ramirez is a gang member when they raided his home in March.

Under terms of the lawsuit settlement, the City of Chicago agreed to modify Mr. Catalan-Ramirez’ law enforcement records to make clear that he is not a gang member. The City also has provided an official letter addressed to federal immigration officials in support of his visa application.

“The City of Chicago has cleared Wilmer’s name but the gang data base still exists and thousands of almost exclusively Black and Brown Chicagoans have been labeled as gang members without adequate due process” said Vanessa del Valle, an attorney with the MacArthur Justice Center. ” “Wilmer’s story demonstrates the need for a comprehensive audit of the database to determine how many other people are falsely labeled and for CPD to cease this practice until it develops adequate due process protections.”

“This case demonstrates that ICE’s use of gang databases is deeply troubling, especially when ICE increasingly vilifies immigrants as gang members to justify its extreme enforcement policies.”
Sejal Zota
Legal Director, NIPNLG

Despite having never been a member of a Chicago street gang, Catalan-Ramirez was falsely included in the CPD gang database and this information was provided to ICE. Then, on March 27, six ICE agents entered Catalan-Ramirez’ family’s apartment without a warrant, slammed him to the floor and handcuffed him - aggravating his preexisting injuries sustained as a bystander to a drive-by shooting that left him with factures to his skull and shoulder, traumatic brain injury and partial paralysis.

“This case demonstrates that ICE’s use of gang databases is deeply troubling, especially when ICE increasingly vilifies immigrants as gang members to justify its extreme enforcement policies,” said Sejal Zota, Legal Director of the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild. “ICE should discontinue its practice of relying on error-prone databases, which will continue to devastate and harm immigrant community members. Wilmer’s continued detention is wrong on so many levels and ICE should immediately release him so that he can be with his family and receive critical medical care.”

Prior to his arrest, Catalan-Ramirez had spent months in rehabilitation with assistance from his wife. He has spent the last eight months in an ICE-approved detention center, where he has been denied needed medical care for his injuries, spending most of his days isolated in a cell. Because of the lack of medical care, he risks living with partial paralysis for the rest of his life.

This is not the first lawsuit from the MacArthur Justice Center aimed at CPD’s gang database. In July of this year, they filed a similar suit on behalf of Luis Pedrote-Salinas who was also falsely labeled a gang member by CPD, and subsequently arrested and detained by ICE.