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Advocates: Police flouted ‘sanctuary’ law in traffic stop

June 13, 2019
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Emilio Amaya, executive director of the San Bernardino Community Service Center, speaks during a news conference in Corona, Calif. on Wednesday, June 12, 2109. Immigrant advocates say police violated a state law aimed at protecting immigrants when they called border agents on driver, Valenzuela, who presented a Mexican license. (AP Photo/Amy Taxin)

CORONA, Calif. (AP) — Immigrant advocates on Wednesday said police in Southern California flouted a state law aimed at protecting immigrants when they called border agents on a driver who showed a Mexican license.

Eva Bitrán, staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, said 34-year-old Daniel Valenzuela was stopped by police in Corona in January for allegedly speeding and then was held while officers asked about his immigration record.

U.S. border agents were called and they came and detained him. Valenzuela, who had come to the country on a visa but overstayed by about two weeks, was allowed to return to Mexico but his wife and children remain here, she said, adding that a claim alleging violations of state law and Valenzuela’s rights was filed with the city.

“The result of these violations was to tear apart a family,” she told reporters outside city hall in the community southeast of Los Angeles.

Immigrant advocates in New Mexico, Chicago and elsewhere said earlier this year that they’ve seen police and others cooperate with federal immigration officials despite local “sanctuary” policies barring local law enforcement from doing so.

It isn’t clear how often incidents like this take place in California. Emilio Amaya, an immigrant advocate who tried to help Valenzuela, said he sometimes hears similar allegations but this is the first time he’s been able to document a case in detail.

Corona police acknowledged an officer called Border Patrol agents to verify Valenzuela’s account after he told them he had left his passport and visa at the place he was visiting. Police said they were then told his visa had expired.

Since the incident, officers have been briefed and trained on the state’s law, police said in a statement. Chief George Johnstone said the incident is under internal investigation.

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