O'Neill raid detainee claims ICE violated Civil Rights

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - When Tomasa Perez found herself detained in O'Neill back in August, ICE agents did not have a translator for her native Guatemalan language K’iche that day, which is the only language she knows fluently.

“Tomasa was denied a right of translation in her native language and she's a woman who signed documents that she had no real knowledge of,” LULAC Chair of National Committee and Immigration Julie Contreras said. “Today she comes with a legal advocate, she has an immigration attorney, and a whole organization.”

Friday she reported to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office to meet with her immigration officer. She is applying for a visa but ICE says she has a two year old deportation notice.

Advocates from the League of United Latin American Citizens joined her. A translator from Colorado who speaks K’iche came to translate for Perez.

“Today we stand with two American citizen children that are here and want to live in basic liberty with their mother in their country, the great nation of the United States,” Contreras said.

Advocates say ICE agents violated the Civil Rights act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination based on national origin.

ICE officials say that no such violation occurred and they released her the day of the raid so that they meet with her at a later date with a proper translator.

“We respect our country and we believe in protecting our sovereign nation, we just don't think it should be at the cost of separating and destroying families,” Contreras said.

ICE responded to Local4's inquiries on this story with this statement:

“Tomasa Perez-Zetino de la Cruz was arrested in O’Neill, Nebraska, in August 2018 by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), during a large scale enforcement operation that resulted in the initial arrest of 133 individuals in three states. At the conclusion of the first day of that operation, more than half of those arrested were released.

Perez-Zetino was previously issued a final order of removal, in absentia, by an immigration judge in 2016.

When interviewed during her August 2018 encounter with HSI special agents, Perez-Zetino told authorities she had children at home and that she was not fluent in English or Spanish. As a result of her those facts, and due to her having received a previous final order, she was released for humanitarian reasons on an order of supervision later that day.

Perez-Zetino, a translator and advocates acting on her behalf, recently met at the ICE office in Grand Island, Nebraska. ICE officials provided the advocates additional information and a new check-in date for Perez-Zetino, and this information was then passed to Perez-Zetino through an appropriate translator. She is not currently in ICE custody.”
- Shawn Neudauer, ICE spokesperson