Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, a Marine combat veteran who was born and raised in Michigan, was nearly deported by U.S. Immigration and Customs officials following an arrest on November 21, 2018.
After a court appearance on December 14, deputies with the Kent County Sheriff’s office handed Ramos-Gomez over to ICE officials instead of releasing him, as the judge had ordered. He then spent three days at an immigration detention center before his family was able to get him released.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan is demanding the Kent County Sheriff’s Department and the Kent County Board of Commissioners conduct an investigation into how this happened. The group is also demanding the results of such an investigation be made public. Since then, the sheriff’s department has agreed to stop detaining suspects for ICE without a warrant.
ICE has also spoken out about the incident. In a statement, the organization said that Ramos-Gomez told them he was an undocumented immigrant during an interview on November 23, 2018. Ramos-Gomez was released from custody after the family attorney was able to show documentation proving that he is an American citizen.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. ACLU: Jilmar Ramos-Gomez Has Suffered From PTSD Since Returning From Afghanistan & Has Episodes in Which He Blacks Out & Doesn’t Remember Where He Went
Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, 27, joined the Marines after graduating from high school. He served for three years, from 2011 until 2014, as a lance corporal and tank crewman. Ramos-Gomez listed his Marine position as “Tanker” on his Facebook page.
Ramos-Gomez saw combat in Afghanistan and came home highly decorated for his service. His awards included the National Defense Service Medal, an Afghanistan campaign medal and a global war on terrorism medal.
According to the ACLU of Michigan, Ramos-Gomez, unfortunately, came home with more than just recognition for his valor. He has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder since returning to civilian life. His family described Ramos-Gomez as being “a shell of his former self.” He reportedly deals frequently with memory loss. His family told the ACLU that Ramos-Gomez “has episodes where he disappears and when he is found again, he often has no recollection of where he has been.”
2. Officials: Ramos-Gomez Was Arrested After Setting a Small Fire at a Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan in November 2018
Jilmar Ramos-Gomez was arrested November 21, 2018. He reportedly had his passport with him at the time of his arrest. Police told local news outlets at the time that he was accused of setting a fire in the hallway of Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan. No one was injured and the fire did not cause any substantial damage.
Police said Ramos-Gomez pulled a fire alarm before heading to the roof. He was arrested on the helipad. He faced serious charges including arson and property damage. He pled guilty to trespassing during a court appearance on December 14, 2018. The judge ordered him released on bond until the sentencing hearing.
The ACLU of Michigan alleges in their letter to the Kent County Sheriff’s office that the hospital incident was an example of how Ramos-Gomez can black out and not realize what he is doing.
3. The Judge Ordered Ramos-Gomez Released on Bond, But Instead, Deputies Turned Him Over to Immigration Officials; ICE Officials Said Ramos-Gomez Told Them He Was Undocumented During an Interview in November
Jilmar Ramos-Gomez was supposed to go home after pleading guilty to trespassing during a court appearance on December 14, 2018. His mother, Maria Gomez, showed up at the jail to pick him up. But when she arrived, her son was no longer there. She told NBC affiliate WOOD-TV, “I almost had a heart attack when I heard that my son was in immigration’s hands. They don’t care what he did for his country. That makes me mad.”
Kent County deputies instead had handed over Ramos-Gomez to ICE. They took him to an immigration detention center in Calhoun County, which is approximately 80 miles south of Kent County in Michigan. The ACLU wrote in its letter:
“Publicly available jail records show that Mr. Ramos-Gomez was subject to a detainer, i.e. an ICE hold, and that the jail turned him over on December 14, 2018. It is unclear how that was possible or why the jail believed it should hand Mr. Ramos-Gomez over to ICE, rather than release him as required by the court order.”
The question as to why Ramos-Gomez was subject to a detainer has been answered by ICE. The department says ICE agents spoke with Ramos-Gomez two days after the hospital incident, and that he told them he was an undocumented immigrant. ICE is not conducting any further investigation into the matter. A statement from ICE released January 16, 2019, explains:
“On November 23rd, ICE officers interviewed Jilmar Ramos while he was in the custody of local law enforcement. Mr. Ramos claimed in verbal statements to be a foreign national illegally present in the U.S. Based on his statements, ICE lodged a detainer with local authorities. On December 14th, ICE took Mr. Ramos into agency custody after he was released from local custody. On December 17th, an attorney for Mr. Ramos contacted the agency and provided documentation suggesting that he is a U.S. citizen. ICE reviewed the documentation and authorized Mr. Ramos’ release. No further action will be taken.”
Ramos-Gomez ended up spending three days behind bars at the immigration detention center. His family, working with attorney Richard Kessler, managed to secure his release. We have reached out to Kessler about any steps the family or Ramos-Gomez plan to take following this incident. Check back for updates.
4. ACLU: Ramos-Gomez Risked His Life to Protect the United States & the Government Failed Him
The ACLU of Michigan reported in their letter that Jilmar Ramos-Gomez has suffered tremendously as a result of his detainment at the immigration center. The group says his mental health “has deteriorated even further.” The letter goes on:
“It is incomprehensible that the Sheriff’s Department turned a vulnerable, mentally ill United States citizen over to ICE so that he could be deported from his country—a country for which he fought on the battlefield. Mr. Ramos-Gomez risked his life protecting the rest of us. When he needed mental health services as a result, our government failed him. And now, Kent County has further failed him by facilitating ICE’s efforts to illegally detain and deport him.”
In addition to calling for an investigation into how Ramos-Gomez could have been mistaken for an undocumented immigrant, the ACLU of Michigan also used the letter to call on Kent County officials to stop collaborating with ICE.
“Our organizations have provided detailed legal analysis explaining that the Kent County Sheriff’s Department practice of volunteering to assist ICE with deportations exposes the County to significant legal liability.2 Research has shown conclusively that local law enforcement’s collaboration with ICE increases instances of racial profiling, and sows distrust between the community and law enforcement. This voluntary practice can be stopped at any time. The time to do so is now.”
The Kent County Sheriff’s office responded to this demand during a news conference on January 18. The department will no longer hold detainees without a warrant from a federal judge.
5. Jilmar Ramos-Gomez Was Born & Raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan & Praised Police on Facebook Two Days Before His Arrest at the Hospital
Jilmar Ramos-Gomez was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1991. According to his Facebook page, he now lives in the neighboring city of Wyoming in Kent County.
Ramos-Gomez posted on Facebook two days before his arrest at Spectrum Health, praising law enforcement in the city of Wyoming. The initial post stressed that officers need extra training: “retrain your officers to not brandish or make fast movements want them to make it back home.”
Ramos-Gomez further clarified his statement in the comments, writing, “because out of all counties wyoming has shown me love and i dont want bad sh*t to happen to you guys so dont f*ck up that reputation” and “you guys are examples of what other officers should be like #train.”
His profile photo on Facebook is a picture of a momument honoring fallen soldiers from Kent County.