A longtime Las Vegas resident and construction worker who has spent months in immigration detention after arrests for minor infractions that were quickly dismissed is suing Las Vegas police and Sheriff Joe Lombardo for their role in landing him in deportation proceedings.
David Adame-Reyes, 36, filed a lawsuit last week in federal court in Nevada in conjunction with the National Immigration Law Center and two other law firms: San Francisco-based Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, and the law firm Holland & Hart LLP, which has offices in Nevada.
He is challenging the police practice of honoring “detainers” from immigration officials — holding people for longer than they would otherwise stay in jail so they can be detained by immigration officials. His lawyers argue there was no legal basis for diverting him to federal custody during his brief visits to jail, and that his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure and his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process were violated.
“As a result of Defendants’ conduct, Mr. Adame-Reyes has sustained, and will continue to sustain, without limitation, emotional and economic injuries in the form of loss of freedom, lost income, emotional distress, and loss of the companionship of his family,” the complaint said.
Las Vegas police declined to comment on the lawsuit, citing a policy of not commenting on pending litigation. The suit comes after Lombardo announced in October that his agency would stop participating in the so-called “287(g)” jail-based partnership with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and honoring holds, following a federal court in California’s ruling on the issue. Adame-Reyes’ arrests came before that announcement.
Adame-Reyes’ lawyers said they worry that Lombardo could go back on his word, based on what they described as a begrudging promise to end the agreement.
“Metro cops claimed that they halted their policy back in October of last year, but in that very same statement, they made it clear that their intent was actually to continue working to achieve essentially the same conduct in spite halting the 287(g) agreement,” Sarah Kim Pak, a lawyer with the National Immigration Law Center, said in an interview. “It appears to us that the court telling Sheriff Lombardo specifically and directly that he was wrong then, and will be wrong for that now, is something that is necessary.”
Adame-Reyes is originally from Mexico and has lived in the U.S. for about 15 years; immigration authorities say he entered through Arizona at an unknown time and place. According to the complaint, he was first arrested in August of 2018 when, while walking to a convenience store on a hot day, he stopped to sit and rest by a utility pole while a landscaping crew worked nearby.
A police officer approached him and asked him in English what he was doing, later telling him that the landscapers complained that he was obstructing their pathway and that he was under arrest for disorderly conduct. The complaint said that in the confusion over the language barrier, and why he was in trouble for sitting on a sidewalk when the crew had not complained to him, he pulled his arm away while the officer was trying to arrest him and was then accused of resisting an officer.
Although Adame-Reyes was ordered to be released the same day he was booked in jail, a 287(g) officer intercepted him and issued a warrant for an immigration arrest, according to the complaint. He was sent to the Henderson Detention Center, where he remained for more than four months until his family paid a $6,500 bond, the suit said.
His lawyers say that was the first time he landed in deportation proceedings.
Adame-Reyes was arrested a second time in August 2019, while waiting on the street for a friend who had gone into a store nearby. In about three weeks in jail, he was taken to court twice and charges were dropped in two different proceedings.
Upon returning to the Clark County Detention Center, he again encountered a 287(g) officer who inquired about his immigration status. He answered, not knowing that he could refuse, and that prompted his transfer to an ICE detention center in Pahrump. An ICE spokeswoman said he had violated the terms of his immigration bond in the second arrest case.
Adame-Reyes has remained in detention since September pending an appeal of his immigration case to the Board of Immigration Appeals.
“He, unfortunately, has had several run-ins … with law enforcement that seems to be giving the impression that he's being targeted based on his appearance,” said Amanda Maya, with the firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP.
ICE defended the collaboration with Las Vegas police as "crucial" to public safety.
"The agency’s relationship with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and other local law enforcement agencies throughout the country, is an indispensable component of promoting public safety and security in our community," the agency said in a statement on Wednesday. "ICE’s mission remains consistent: to identify, arrest and remove aliens who present a danger to national security or are a risk to public safety, as well as those who enter the country illegally or otherwise undermine the integrity of our immigration laws and our border control efforts."
No court date has been set yet for the case. It’s the second lawsuit to be filed over immigration detention policies in local jails and follows a lawsuit filed in January against the City of Las Vegas’ jail.
Attorney Michael Kagan, who directs the UNLV Immigration Clinic, which is representing Adame-Reyes in his deportation proceedings, said the case could help bring clarity on Nevada immigration laws. So far, the basis of the sheriff’s decision is a decision out of a California-based federal court.
“Other than this 1983 [attorney general] opinion, there’s not a lot of authoritative statements about Nevada law,” Kagan said. “The Nevada Legislature has never authorized Nevada police to hold people on non criminal immigration matters, and that’s what they’ve been doing. So it makes sense for their being a Nevada lawsuit … about how this fits into our state’s law, rather than rely on a court in California.”
Adame-Reyes’ legal team said they hope that the lawsuit will encourage people in situations similar to their plaintiff.
“We're hoping that others who have been affected by this policy start to feel a little bit of recourse, a little bit of that sentiment that you're being heard,” Kim Pak said.
Updated at 8:50 a.m. on Feb. 12, 2020 to add comment from ICE.