PALMER — The Palmer Police Department has settled a lawsuit that contended officers made a false arrest by holding a Peruvian man in jail over his immigration status.
The settlement includes $50,000 in compensation, an apology and several policy changes, according to a release the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska issued Tuesday morning.
The case began in August 2017 when 38-year-old Alex Caceda was working security at Klondike Mike's Saloon in downtown Palmer the night of the big Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Conor McGregor fight. He intervened after a bartender finishing her shift was attacked by three men, the ACLU says.
Caceda, who is from Peru and whose real name is Andres Alexander Caceda-Mantilla, was living in the United States illegally because he overstayed a non-immigrant visa by several years, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said at the time.
The men beat him, injuring his face and head, when he tried to get them outside, Caceda said. His wounds are visible in a video obtained by the ACLU.
Police arrived, learned of a U.S. immigration detainer warrant filed against Caceda by federal officials, and handcuffed him.
Caceda was treated for his injuries and spent four days in custody before he was released to pursue a green card application already underway, authorities said at the time.
He was the plaintiff in a lawsuit against the City of Palmer, as well as three police officers and a dispatcher the ACLU calls the "instigator" in encouraging the officers to arrest Caceda.
The 12-page settlement agreement was filed in early August. In it, the city denies all of the allegations in the lawsuit, and any liability based on them.
Along with the monetary compensation, the settlement includes a written apology from the City of Palmer for the "inconvenience, embarrassment, or personal hardship" this incident caused Caceda, according to ACLU.
It also requires Palmer police enact for a year a revised policy on ICE detainers and warrants. The revisions include the following, according to ACLU:
–Direction that an ICE warrant will be treated as an administrative, not criminal, warrant unless signed by a neutral magistrate or judge;
–Acknowledgement that Palmer's police department "values the diverse population of the community it serves";
–Acknowledgement that unauthorized presence in the United States "is not a crime" and enforcing civil violations is reserved for ICE;
–An express statement that officers won't stop or detain someone based on the knowledge or suspicion that they are in the country without authorization;
–Recognition that four types of ICE detainer and hold requests are never criminal.
The settlement signals Alaska's local law enforcement agencies that they need to believe a crime has been committed before they arrest someone, ACLU spokesman Casey Reynolds said Tuesday.
"If they try to arrest immigrants just for being undocumented even if ICE directs them to then they'll be held accountable because that's an unlawful act," he said.
Palmer police Chief Lance Ketterling said Tuesday that the city "doesn't have anything to add to the settlement agreement."
Immigration officials said after Caceda was detained that the type of warrant he was held on is intended to help law enforcement agencies hold unauthorized immigrants who are already in police custody.
The lawsuit argued that the arrest violated the searches and seizures clause of the Alaska Constitution. The complaint called for a Superior Court judge to declare that Palmer police have no authority to make arrests and detain people for civil immigration violations even when requested to do so by federal immigration officers.
It also called for monetary damages "for his assault, false arrest and false imprisonment."
Caceda is working through the process of getting U.S. citizenship and still lives in Mat-Su, though Reynolds declined to say where.
"He has received some threats, but we also want to make sure he's not targeted by state and federal law enforcement for federal action," he said.