By Melissa Caen

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — Three days after his release from detention at the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Facility, Jose Armando Escobar-Lopez spoke at the monthly interfaith vigil held at the ICE offices in San Francisco.

Through a translator, he said, “I ask for justice for myself, for my wife, for my family and for everyone who has gone through something like this.”

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According to a complaint filed by his attorney, Lopez was driving a car on May 11, 2019 when he was pulled over by Daly City police. Lopez did not have a license but did produce his Salvordorian Documento Único de Identidad, an identification card from El Salvador. (He was not cited for driving without a license.) The police did a search of his name and found that Lopez had an outstanding civil immigration warrant.

The police report says Lopez as “arrested for a federal immigration warrant out of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for failure to appear for removal.” It also says an officer at the scene “called and spoke with ICE” who verified Lopez’s identity and later met up with the officer to take Lopez into custody.

There is also a video that shows Lopez being cuffed by an ICE agent with a Daly City police officer standing nearby.

“He was clearly turned over to ICE in violation of state law and his constitutional rights — the Fourth Amendment. So that is pending, we’re waiting to hear back from the city,” said Angela Chan, the policy director and senior staff attorney at Advancing Justice Asian Law Caucus.

Lopez was released from custody on Aug. 5 and his immigration case is being appealed to the Bureau of Immigration Appeals.

Friday, Lopez called out the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Facility where he was held, “I want to ask that Mesa Verde Detention Center be closed permanently.”

According to a complaint he filed against Daly City, he’s suing for “compensatory, statutory, treble, and punitive damages” for “violating his rights against unlawful seizure; his right to due process; his rights under the California Values Act and the TRUTH Act; false imprisonment; causing emotional distress; and negligence.”

He’s also asking the city to provide a “U Visa certification.” U Visas are for people who are crime victims. In this case, Lopez wants the city to state that it falsely imprisoned him, thus making him eligible to apply for the visa.

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Finally, the complaint asks for the police department to replace its current policy on immigration with “a model policy provided by Asian Americans Advancing Justice — Asian Law Caucus.”

As for the city’s response, so far, “they haven’t yet agreed to a policy change and they haven’t agreed to any remedies for Armando,” Chan said.

Suing a city in California requires an administrative complaint be filed first so Chan is waiting for Daly City to respond to that administrative filing before filing a lawsuit in court.

KPIX did reach out to the Daly City manager’s office (the designated point of contact for this case) but no one responded.

On July 22, the Daly City council passed a resolution reaffirming the “City’s dedication and commitment to protecting the rights of all individuals in our community.”

The resolution stated, “According to figures generated by the Bay Area Census and American Community Survey, over 52% of Daly City residents are foreign born. Of this number, it is estimated that over 21%, or about 22,000 of the residents who call Daly City home, are undocumented immigrants.”

With such a large immigrant community, Chan suspects there may be other instances of Daly City police cooperating with ICE in violation of the law.

“From watching what happened in the video of Armando, from reading the police report, it looks like it wasn’t a unique situation,” she says. “It looks like the officer was very comfortable doing what he did.”

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In March of this year, Chan’s group, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus published a study of police and sheriff’s department policies around the state [read the PDF]