Anchorage, AK — Today, the ACLU of Alaska announced a settlement in a case filed against the Palmer Police Department (PPD) for their unlawful arrest of Alex Caceda, a Peruvian immigrant, at the request of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Alaska peace officers have no authority under Alaska law to detain or arrest people for being undocumented, even if ICE requests it.
On August 27, 2017, after coming to the defense of a female bartender at Klondike Mike’s Saloon, Alex Caceda was brutally beaten by three men. When police showed up, they identified the attackers and handcuffed them, but upon learning Caceda was an immigrant, PPD released the attackers without punishment and focused their investigation on him.
Even though he had committed no crime, Caceda was arrested, taken to Mat-Su Pretrial Facility, and kept in jail for four days. After being turned over to ICE, Caceda was released without facing either bail or deportation hearings.
In exchange for dropping his lawsuit, Caceda received:
- A written apology from the City of Palmer in the settlement agreement for the “inconvenience, embarrassment, or personal hardship” this incident caused Caceda.
- The following changes to PPD’s Standard Operating Procedures dealing with immigration warrants and detainers:
- Direction that an ICE warrant shall be treated as administrative and not a criminal warrant unless the warrant is signed by a neutral magistrate or judge.
- Acknowledgment that PPD values the diverse population of the community it serves.
- Acknowledgment that unauthorized presence in the United States is not a crime and enforcement of civil violations of unlawful presence is reserved for ICE.
- Express statement that officers shall not stop or detain an individual based on the knowledge or suspicion that the person is in the United States without authorization.
- Recognition that the following ICE detainer and hold requests are never criminal and require no analysis to determine that they are administrative: I-200, I-203, I-205, I-247.
- $50,000 in compensation.
“When local police officers unlawfully target immigrants, they damage their department’s relationship with their community and make us all less safe,” said ACLU of Alaska Executive Director Joshua A. Decker. “We hope law enforcement leaders all over Alaska take notice that if they arrest anyone just for being undocumented they too will be held accountable.”
The ACLU of Alaska will be sending a letter to every chief of police in Alaska explaining the outcome of this case and asking them to review their own department’s policies with their rank and file officers.
“This is the best possible outcome for Alex,” said his attorney and ACLU of Alaska cooperating counsel Matt Singer of law firm Holland & Knight. “Not only does Alex get real policy changes ensuring immigrants in Palmer will be safe when they interact with police, he also gets significant compensation to help him complete his long-time dream of becoming an American citizen.”
The release issued when this case was filed can be found here. This release can be found online here.
Documents and Resources
New Palmer Police Department Policy on Immigration Warrants and Detainers:
ACLU Letter to Chiefs of Police:
Full Legal Complaint:
Video of the incident and explaining the lawsuit:
Raw video of bodycam and interview footage:
ACLU of Alaska letter to Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan regarding liability for cooperation with federal immigration officials:
Picture of Alex Caceda: