Immigration Vigilantes or Deputies on Patrol?

Frederick's sheriff tells his side of the arrest that sparked a lawsuit

By Anne Reynolds
|  Friday, Nov 13, 2009  |  Updated 8:00 PM EDT
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Immigration Vigilantes or Deputies on Patrol?

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LONGVIEW, TX - JULY 24: Applications with photographs and fees from Mexican citizens sit on a table to be processed for a ?Matricula Consular? card at the Wesley-McCabe United Methodist Church July 24, 2004 in Longview, Texas. The identification card is issued to Mexican citizens living outside of Mexico to recognize legitimate Mexicans in the U.S. Mexican Consulate officials from Dallas, Texas established what they called a ?mobile consulate? in Longview to process applicants from 450 Mexican citizens. (Photo by Mario Villafuerte/Getty Images)

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The Frederick County sheriff is speaking out about a civil rights lawsuit filed this week against him and his department.

The suit stems from an arrest made in October 2008. It alleges that two deputies arrested Roxana Orellana Santos last fall solely because they believe she was in the country illegally.

Attorneys from LatinoJustice and Casa de Maryland say Santos was eating her lunch one day when the officers approached her and started questioning her about her immigration status. She was arrested and spent the night in jail, before being transferred to a special holding jail for immigration cases. She said she spent 46 days there before being released.

Today, Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins told a very different story about the circumstances surrounding the arrest.

"Let me be clear, the statements and allegations made in the filing are inaccurate, misleading, and do not include all the facts," the Sheriff said Friday.

According to the sheriff, the two deputies were on a routine patrol in the area when they spotted Santos. When she saw the deputies, they said she began acting suspicious and tried to hide from them, prompting the deputies to investigate what was going on. The sheriff said they asked her for identification, and when they ran her information through their computer, they discovered there were warrants out for her arrest.

"They ran a check through NCIC, the check came back that she was wanted by ICE for an order of deportation arrest warrant," Jenkins told News 4. "She would have been taken by any law enforcement officer or agency in the state of Maryland or across this country."

Sheriff Jenkins said the lawsuit is an attempt to derail Frederick County's participation in the federal 287g program. Under the program, specially trained deputies check the immigration status of everyone who is arrested. When they discover that someone is in the country illegally, immigration officials are notified.

Jenkins said the deputies involved in this incident are not even involved in the program.

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