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SEATTLE — A North Central Washington woman has accused the Okanogan County Jail of unlawfully detaining her at the request of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Maria del Rayo Mendoza Garcia filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in U.S. Eastern District Court against Okanogan County on the claim that the jail held her on an immigration detainer even after a local court ordered her release.

In the lawsuit, Mendoza is seeking financial damages and attorney fees to be determined at trial. Mendoza is represented by the Northwest Immigration Rights Project and Columbia Legal Services.

“Okanogan County violated our client’s Fourth Amendment rights when they kept her locked up based on an immigration detainer, as it is simply a request made by a low-level immigration officer without any judicial oversight,” said Matt Adams, legal director for the immigration project.

Mendoza was arrested March 18 by Douglas County Sheriff’s Office deputies on suspicion of fourth-degree assault, according to a news release from the Northwest Immigration Rights Project.

On March 20, Douglas County District Court ordered her released on personal recognizance from Okanogan County Jail while the case proceeded.

Mendoza’s attorneys say instead of releasing her, the jail continued to detain her at the request of federal immigration officials until they arrived at the jail two days later and took her into custody and transported her to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma.

She was later released by the order of an immigration judge, the release said.

The Keep Washington Working Act, passed earlier this year, prohibits local law enforcement from notifying Immigration, Customs and Enforcement when a non-U.S. citizen was in custody and from detaining someone for civil immigration enforcement.

“Federal courts have repeatedly made clear that state and local government agencies have no authority to enforce federal civil immigration laws,” said Columbia Legal Services attorney Alfredo Gonzalez Benitez. “Honoring a detainer without a warrant or probable cause is unlawful and communities expect local law enforcement to follow the law.”

Pete O’Cain: 664-7152 or

on Twitter@peterocain

This article originally ran on

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