San Bernardino woman alleges wrongful detention

Photo/Anthony Victoria: San Bernardino resident Guadalupe Placencia speaking to dozens of people during a vigil held in front of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement field office in downtown on March 31.

A San Bernardino woman is claiming she was wrongfully apprehended and detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials despite being a U.S. citizen.

“I spent over 20 hours in the custody of law enforcement and immigration officials,” said Guadalupe Placencia, who spoke soon after her release to dozens of immigrant rights advocates during a vigil held in front of the ICE field office in Downtown San Bernardino. “I was treated like an animal, with no dignity.”

Placencia visited the Ontario Police Department on the afternoon of March 28 to pick up a registered firearm that had previously been confiscated. She said she was taken into custody by two officers for an unsettled legal obligation. A San Bernardino County superior court database search revealed that a woman named Guadalupe Placencia has an outstanding warrant from 2007 for being in contempt of court.

Placencia said she’s never been in contempt of court. “That person isn’t me.”

The 59-year-old alleges she was told by Ontario police that she would be taken in for prints and later released, but was instead transferred to the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga. Deputies there supposedly urged her to sign paperwork that would notify ICE of impending release.

“They were holding me for something that I didn’t do,” she said. “I knew something was wrong the moment they told me to sign the paperwork.”

Soon after, Placencia said she was approached by two ICE officers that took her into custody. She was taken to their San Bernardino office and questioned by officials that verified her citizenship status.

“They never once apologized and never once mentioned what the confusion was about,” Placencia said. “I’m trying to figure out what triggered this. Mistakes like this cannot continue to happen. Immigrants should be treated with respect, regardless if they’re [naturalized] citizens or not.”

ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said officials were unable to locate any information on Placencia in databases or corroborate that she was ever in their custody.

Not knowing where to turn to, Placencia approached immigrant rights leaders for support. She said they’ve been helpful in directing her to legal resources. She wants the community to know about her case.

“I came here because I needed some help,” Placencia said. “I needed to speak out on it because there are others who have similar stories.”

Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice Director Javier Hernandez says he is concerned about Placencia’s story.

“The Sheriff department’s claims of non-collaboration with ICE are completely false,” Hernandez said. “They continue to have a presence inside county jails. And they still notify ICE of immigrants being released. Guadalupe’s story concerns us as a Coalition because this might become a horrible trend if this new administration allows further ICE and law enforcement collaboration.”

Hernandez said advocates intend to follow up with Placencia on her issue.