1 of 4
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
ACLU Legal Director John Mejia speaks as ACLU of Utah hold a press conference over an illegal search and unlawful detention lawsuit in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018.

SALT LAKE CITY — Members of a Utah family who say they endured two aggressive raids from armed federal agents who refused to show a warrant filed a lawsuit Tuesday against U.S. marshals and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court by Utah's American Civil Liberties Union alleges one named ICE agent and 48 other unidentified officers violated the family's constitutional rights when they searched their Heber City apartment last April, detaining five adults without cause and terrorizing four small children.

The 39-page lawsuit gives a detailed account of the raids on April 10 and 11, including descriptions of federal agents separating the weeping children from their parents and grandmother, disparaging the adults with insults and profanities, denying multiple requests to produce a warrant and insisting that the family would fail in any legal action in the case because of "Trump's new law."

The agents apparently went after the family in an attempt to find their grandfather, who was facing a 2011 indictment for unlawful re-entry into the country but no violent crimes, saying that if he couldn't be found, the grandmother would be arrested instead, the lawsuit alleges.

The claim is part of the ACLU's nationwide Immigrant Rights Project and is the first of its kind in Utah. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the family's grandmother, Alicia Amaya Carmona, 48; her three adult sons, Abel Ramirez Jr., 31, Eduardo Ramirez, 28, and Carlos Ramirez, 27; her daughter-in-law, Berenice Resendiz, 27; and four grandchildren ranging in age from 2 to 6 years old.

Carmona, of Mexico, was in the country without documentation and is now awaiting deportation, though she has no criminal record, the ACLU confirmed. The four adult children have legal status under the Deferred Action Childhood Arrival program, while the grandchildren are U.S. citizens.

Starling Marshall, an attorney from Covington & Burling, which is partnering in the lawsuit, called the allegations "extremely egregious," especially because it is unknown how often such heavy-handed tactics are being used as immigration enforcement ratchets up under President Donald Trump.

"I believe that these officers preyed on that fact, thinking that they would never have to be held accountable for their actions because these people would be voiceless," Marshall said. "The family has been very clear that what they are really seeking with this lawsuit is trying to assure this won't happen to other families, and especially to other children."

Carmona was caring for her four grandchildren, some of whom were napping, in a bedroom of the apartment about noon on April 10 when federal agents let themselves in without permission using keys they got from the building's management, the lawsuit states.

As armed agents met Carmona and the children in the living room, the one named ICE agent in the lawsuit, Jordan Reddish, took the weeping children outside, forcing them to sit for more than 30 minutes with no shoes and no coats despite temperatures in the 40s, according to the lawsuit.

Carmona's children rushed to the apartment as they learned the home was being raided and agents were threatening to take the children if no one claimed them within 15 minutes.

After arriving, Carlos Ramirez asked Reddish why his mother was being arrested even though she had no criminal history.

"Reddish responded that they were looking for his father, but they were taking his mother because they 'had to take somebody,'" the lawsuit states. "Reddish told Carlos that he should 'give up his dad' to save his mom."

As Carmona was taken away, the family returned to the apartment, which they found had been "ransacked," with clothes and blankets strewn about and closet doors knocked from their hinges. The lawsuit also alleges $3,000 in cash meant to pay for an immigration lawyer for Carmona was taken.

While the agents had denied multiple requests to see a warrant, Reddish did leave Carlos Ramirez with a business card when he asked for one in case he found any information about his father. They spoke twice on the phone early the next morning, the lawsuit states, as Reddish told Ramirez he would "trade" his mother for his father.

In text messages, Reddish allegedly told Ramirez he would only have control over his mother's fate for a short time. When Ramirez didn't reply, Reddish replied saying "congratulations."

About 10 p.m. on April 11, not long after Reddish's last text, the lawsuit claims he and a group of agents burst through the apartment door with a battering ram.

Only Ramirez's wife, Resendiz, and the couple's three children were home at the time. Resendiz was forced at gunpoint to leave the home in her pajamas with her children still inside, and was told she could not use her phone to contact her husband or a lawyer, according to the lawsuit.

As Resendiz asked to see a warrant, the lawsuit claims one agent replied, "We don't need a warrant" and Reddish told her they had "left it in the office."

Another agent then began asking Resendiz about her father-in-law, saying, "Your mother-in-law will be in jail for a long time if you do not say something," the lawsuit states.

Carlos Ramirez was also asked about his father when he returned to the home, according to the lawsuit. When he asked if this time he would get to see a warrant for the search, Reddish allegedly told Ramirez he "was 'watching too much Univision,' and that he did not need a warrant to break down a door," according to the lawsuit.

Eduardo and Abel Ramirez Jr. joined their brother, asking why the agents had come for them though they had committed no crimes. Reddish allegedly replied they were all criminals for being in the country illegally, while a second agent said they should all "return to Mexico" and a third called them "cowards" for fearing the cartels, the lawsuit states.

The agents left about two hours after they came, having made no new arrests, according to the lawsuit.

Meanwhile, Carmona, who had been held overnight in the Summit County Jail, had been taken to Salt Lake City where Reddish and another agent gave her paperwork in English to sign, which she didn't understand, the lawsuit says.

One agent — speaking English while a second agent translated — allegedly "cursed and yelled" at Carmona, telling her she "needed to sign the papers or she would spend the rest of her life in jail, and that her children's DACA status would be terminated and she would never see them again," according to the lawsuit.

Following the threats, Carmona signed the forms. She was taken to a detention center in Logan and later transferred to a facility in Colorado. Her children have since posted bail for her and she is back with them awaiting deportation proceedings.

24 comments on this story

In a written statement issued Tuesday, Carl Rusnok, communications director for ICE in the region, declined comment on the lawsuit, emphasizing that the agency's "lack of comment should not be construed as agreement with or stipulation to any of the allegations."

"As part of the Department of Homeland Security's homeland security mission, our trained law enforcement professionals adhere to the department's mission and values, and uphold our laws while continuing to provide the nation with safety and security," Rusnok said.