Abdi Ahmed was cruising through South Texas one evening in his truck just a few hours before sunset when he slowed at a border patrol checkpoint about three miles west of the town of Bruni.
Ahmed had no reason to worry. Granted, he was not born in the States, but he was legal; the U.S. government had given him refugee status in 2005 after leaving his war-torn homeland of Somalia. At the checkpoint, he showed the agent his record of admission, as well as his work authorization card, his social security card and his driver’s license. The officer took the documents and asked Ahmed to pull into the secondary inspection area.
What happened next, according to a lawsuit Ahmed filed in federal court in Victoria, was the stuff of nightmares.
Ahmed claims that the border agent ran Ahmed’s name and alien number through the immigration databases and saw that Ahmed had in fact been admitted as a refugee nearly two years earlier and did not have any immigration or criminal violations on his record. But that didn’t seem to matter. Border agents took Ahmed into custody anyway, locking him up inside a detention facility in Laredo and initiating removal proceedings.
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After more than a month, 43 days to be exact, Ahmed appeared before an immigration judge, who set bond at $2,500. Ahmed’s friends, according to the lawsuit, tried to pay, but immigration “agents refused to accept payment of the bond.” So, Ahmed remained behind bars.
A week later, Ahmed appeared again in court for his removal hearing, where the government’s attorneys “admitted that [Ahmed] was in lawful immigration status and had been wrongfully detained,” the lawsuit reads. The judge then granted the government’s request to dismiss the case and Ahmed was set free, having spent 49 days locked up for no apparent reason.
Ahmed, who lives in Minnesota, is suing the U.S. claiming false imprisonment and negligence. He is seeking damages claiming he was deprived of his income, liberty and constitutional rights.
-- Chris Vogel