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  • Marine veteran Jilmar Ramos-Gomez was wrongfully held at an ICE detention center.

    Marine veteran Jilmar Ramos-Gomez was wrongfully held at an ICE detention center. | Photo: ACLU

Published 17 January 2019

Ramos-Gomez earned a National Defense Service Medal, a Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, an Afghanistan Campaign Medal and a combat action ribbon, according to the ACLU.

A decorated United States-born Marine veteran tank crewman Jilmar Ramos-Gomez was mistakenly held for three days in an immigration detention facility, possibly marked for deportation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), before federal authorities learned his nationality.

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“Why did they think he was a non-citizen? Did they get him confused with someone else? Who knows,” American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorney Miriam Aukerman said. “This is an individual who’s incredibly vulnerable with a mental illness.”

The 27-year-old was only discharged from the Calhoun County detention center after family members and attorney Richard Kessler advocated for his release, promptly presenting personal records on his behalf, according to ACLU of Michigan.

“I was shocked,” Kessler said in an interview. “Everybody knows that Jilmar is a U.S. citizen and a Marines vet. I think it’s racial stereotyping. And it should have been evident that he had pretty significant mental- health issues” the attorney pointed out, explaining that Ramos-Gomez suffers from severe effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Kessler had been familiar with the veteran, after securing temporary residency for the ex-Marine’s mother - who is originally from Guatemala - under Citizenship and Immigration Services' “parole in place” stipulations for parents of service members. As a result, Kessler had proof of Ramos-Gomez citizenship, birth certificate and Social Security information available.

“I immediately called ICE and shouted at them,” the lawyer stated. “And they called me back and said, kind of, ‘Oops, yeah, come and get him.’ They didn’t say, ‘Our bad,’ but kind of implied that.”

Prior to ICE detention, the Afghanistan ex-veteran was being held at the Kent County jail for trespassing and damaging a fire alarm at a Grand Rapids hospital. Ramos-Gomez, according to ACLU, had pled guilty to the charges and was awaiting sentencing before ICE officials contacted the jail and subsequently removed him from the facility and detained him.

“Once he was released from our custody, he was under the domain of ICE. Where they take him is their process,” Kent County Undersheriff Chuck DeWitt said, adding that “our procedures were followed.”

Former Lance Corporal Ramos-Gomez, following the ICE ordeal, is currently under mental-health care and the ACLU has urged the Kent County sheriff and county officials uncover how Ramos-Gomez came to be released from the county’s custody by ICE agents. Khaalid Walls, and ICE spokesman in Detroit, said he was unable to respond to media inquiries due to the ongoing partial government shutdown.

Ramos-Gomez served between 2011 and 2014, earning a National Defense Service Medal, a Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, an Afghanistan Campaign Medal, and a combat action ribbon, according to the ACLU.

“His family reports that he is focused on returning for his marine brothers in Afghanistan,” the ACLU said in a statement. “He has episodes where he disappears and when he is found again, he often has no recollection of where he has been.”

Aukerman added that the treatment of Ramos-Gomez has been “appalling.”

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