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Couple files lawsuit against Customs & Border Protection for Montana incident

Posted at 8:54 AM, Jul 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-18 10:54:22-04

HAVRE – A former Montana couple is suing U.S. Customs & Border Protection for what they say was an unlawful arrest and detainment.

Miriam Rojas-Rosas and Julio Santiago-Ortiz say the incident happened in April 2016 near Havre.

Rojas-Rosas was living in Glasgow at the time and the couple had recently married.

According to the complaint, on April 12, 2016, the couple, along with their uncle Jose Angel Ortiz-Marroquin, and a friend Alberto Conteras-Varga, were heading back to Glasgow from California when they were pulled over by a Montana Highway Patrol trooper.

The trooper expressed concern for the immigration status of some of the people in the vehicle and contacted the Border Patrol.   

The complaint states that the trooper ended up letting the group go, but soon after, Border Patrol pulled them over.

The agents arrested Ortiz-Marroquin and Conteras-Varga without explanation. Rojas-Rosas and Santiago-Ortiz gave the agent their identification and were told they were not valid.

According to the complaint, Rojas-Rosas is part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, also known as DACA, and Santiago-Ortiz had a valid visitor’s visa.

The agents said Santiago-Ortiz was the only one that was legally in the United States and told him he was free to go.

His wife, Rojas-Rosas, was brought to the Border Patrol station and detained there for 24 hours.

Rojas-Rosas was questioned about smuggling of undocumented immigrants and she told agents that no smuggling occurred.

Agents called Santiago-Ortiz to get him to come to the office and they arrested him, questioning him about allegations of payment for the smuggling.

Santiago-Ortiz and Rojas-Rosas were released from the Havre CBP facility on the evening of April 13.

According to the United States response to the allegations, Ortiz-Marroquin told agents that Santiago-Ortiz paid a "coyote" $5,000 to smuggle him into the United States.

Court documents also state that the agents discovered information that Santiago-Ortiz might be a part of the Zeta cartel.

The couple is seeking damages for emotional and mental distress.

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