Man falsely labeled a gang member wrongfully detained for 10 months

Posted at 6:52 AM, Jan 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-30 06:52:13-05

CHICAGO (WGN/CNN) – A father of three says federal officials threatened him with deportation and physical injury after he was falsely accused of gang affiliation, due to discrimination, and jailed for nearly a year.

Wilmer Catalan-Ramirez, 32, said Sunday that after 10 months in detention, he believes he has psychological damages and is in need of therapy.

“Those 10 months inside detention were not easy. They were very, very hard,” said Catalan-Ramirez through a translator. “It’s very hard for me to even speak on the topic.”

Catalan-Ramirez’s lawyers say he was mislabeled as a gang member and added to the Chicago Police Department’s gang database. They say he had no criminal record and his contact with police had been limited to “random stops” in what police described as "known gang neighborhoods."

“Because he was Latino and male and young, they labeled him a gang member,” attorney Sheila Bedi said.

Catalan-Ramirez was living in the U.S. illegally, and once he was labeled as a gang member, he lost protections given under Chicago’s "sanctuary city" ordinance. His information was turned over to federal authorities.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided his home without a warrant last March and placed him under arrest.

“We know that they entered without permission, we know it was seven agents… and we know that they aggressively took him away from his family,” said Xanat Sobrevilla with Organized Communities Against Deportations.

Catalan-Ramirez says he was mistreated at the detention center, both physically and through threats of deportation.

Immigration advocates joined with Northwestern University lawyers and community activists to argue Catalan-Ramirez’s case and call for an end to the Chicago Police Gang Database, which they say ensnares innocent people.

The police eventually issued a letter saying they could not verify Catalan-Ramirez's gang affiliation, and ICE agreed to stay his deportation.

At a news conference Monday, the father of three said he decided to drop pending lawsuits against Chicago police, ICE and the detention center to be with his family.

"Being with my children has no price, and that’s why I decided to agree to the deal and forego the lawsuit," said Catalan-Ramirez through a translator.

Under the terms of the settlement, city officials also agreed to write a letter to support a visa application for Catalan-Ramirez.

Immigration officials will allow the father to stay in the U.S. while his visa application is being processed.

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