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Lawsuit: 7-Year-Old Citizen Locked In With Dad

Posted Apr 26, 2007 7:52 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A 7-year-old California boy was rousted from his bed at home by federal immigration authorities and illegally held with his father for 10 hours in a locked room earlier this year, according to a lawsuit filed today in federal court in San Francisco.

Even though Noe Reyes showed agents his child's U.S. passport to prove his American citizenship and asked to be allowed to call relatives to pick up the boy, that didn't happen, according to the suit, as reported by the AP. Instead, the boy was told to hold his hands behind his back as his father was cuffed, and the two were put together in a locked room at a holding facility. They allegedly were given only bread, water and mayonnaise, and had to ask permission to use the restroom.

The boy has since had nightmares about the day, according to his father, a Guatemalan immigrant whose case is pending. His son was cared for by relatives during the approximately six-week period Reyes was jailed.

Civil rights groups are spearheading the litigation, which alleges violations of the boy's constitutional rights and names as defendants Nancy Alcantar, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement San Francisco Field Office Director for Detention and Removal Services, as well as individual officers.

An agency spokeswoman said the child was not arrested, only detained until a family member could come and get him, so that he would not be left home alone. "Our concern was the welfare of this child," says Virginia Kice. "We would never leave a child unattended. We understood there was an adult who could take custody of the child, but that person was not available immediately."

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