A federal judge has temporarily halted the deportation of Roxana Orellana Santos, a Salvadoran immigrant who was first targeted for removal after Maryland sheriff’s deputies unlawfully arrested her a decade ago.
The order by U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake will expire after 10 days but can be renewed. The government’s efforts to deport Santos come as her attorneys are attempting to negotiate damages in her civil rights case against the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office.
Santos, a mother of four, was detained by two deputies in 2008 and turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. A federal court found her arrest — while she was sitting on the curb outside the restaurant where she worked as a dishwasher — violated her civil rights and said the county government was liable for damages.
Court documents show Santos originally sought $1 million and unspecified policy changes in the sheriff’s office.
“But it was never about the money,” said attorney Jose Perez of the civil rights group Latino Justice. “She wanted to stand up so others like her would not be subjected to biased policing.”
No damages agreement can be finalized without Santos, who was taken into custody last week during a routine check-in at ICE’s Baltimore office and is being held at a detention center on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
Her attorneys have petitioned to have her released.
They said it is unclear why Santos was detained last Tuesday — days before she was scheduled to appear in court for mediation in the civil rights case.
ICE cannot return requests for comment during the partial government shutdown, an email statement from the agency’s public affairs office said.
Santos has a petition pending in federal immigration court to reopen her immigration case, in hopes of reversing her deportation order.
“I think it is clear that they are trying to silence her because she has come forward as a civil rights champion,” said Santos’s attorney, Nicholas Katz, of the immigrant advocacy group CASA. “It’s essential she is able to fully participate in that civil rights action.”