A decorated Marine veteran and US citizen who faced possible deportation in Michigan last year when a Grand Rapids police captain reported his case to federal immigration officials will receive a $190,000 payout from that city, according to new reports.
In a unanimous Tuesday vote, city commissioners approved the payment to Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, which resolves a complaint filed earlier this year with the state’s Department of Civil Rights, Michigan Radio reported.
Ramos-Gomez, who was born in Grand Rapids, Mich., and served in Afghanistan, was arrested Nov. 21, 2018 for allegedly breaking into a hospital, setting a fire and pulling an alarm. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor trespassing charges and was ordered to be released from Kent County Correctional Facility on Dec. 14.
But when his mom, Maria Gomez, came to pick him up, she was told he’d been transferred to the immigration detention center in Calhoun County.
The vet was held there between Dec. 14 and Dec. 17 — but was ultimately released when attorney Richard Kessler stepped in, providing Ramos-Gomez’ birth certificate and Social Security information.
“We hope that the community can learn from this case,” Miriam Aukerman, a senior attorney with the ACLU of Michigan, who worked on the case, told Michigan Radio. “What happened to Jilmar is really tragic. And we hope that that will be the impetus we need in the city for the city and the police department to move forward to really engage in systemic reform that will change the way we have policing here in the city.”
The city did not admit to any wrongdoing but said that the settlement was agreeable.
“We are satisfied that the parties have been able to resolve this matter without court proceedings,” city attorney Anita Hitchcock said in a statement to the outlet. “The settlement is not an admission of liability. Rather, it is a resolution of a disputed claim. We hope that all parties can now move forward.”
Grand Rapids Police Captain Curt VanderKooi, who was off-duty at the time, learned of Ramos-Gomez’s 2018 arrest through a local TV report — and asked Immigration and Customs Enforcement to get involved, the outlet reported.
The Grand Rapids Police Civilian Appeal Board found that VanderKooi violated department policy, noting that officers on the scene had already found Ramos-Gomez’s passport in his backpack, according to the report.
VanderKooi was ultimately suspended for 20 hours and required to complete further training — but he remains on the force.
Ramos-Gomez enlisted in the Marines after high school and served between 2011 and 2014 as a lance corporal and tank crewman, earning three medals and a combat action ribbon.
But he came back suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, the ACLU said.
ICE said in a statement obtained by Michigan Radio last year that Ramos “claimed in verbal statements to be a foreign national illegally present in the U.S.”
“Based on his statements, ICE lodged a detainer with local authorities,” the agency said. “On December 14th, ICE took Mr. Ramos into agency custody after he was released from local custody. On December 17th, an attorney for Mr. Ramos contacted the agency and provided documentation suggesting that he is a U.S. citizen. ICE reviewed the documentation and authorized Mr. Ramos’ release. No further action will be taken.”
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