An undocumented man from Kenya claims immigration officers in downtown Chicago beat him up and left him unconscious while getting ready to deport him.
James B. Chesire, 42, on Friday brought a federal lawsuit against five U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, claiming they attacked him without provocation on Nov. 9 inside the immigration facility at 101 W. Congress Parkway.
Chesire arrived in the country on a student visa in 1998 and overstayed it, according to his attorney, Claudia Valenzuela. He has a wife and four kids — all U.S. citizens — but also a record of crimes including assault and drunk driving, Valenzuela said.
At the downtown facility, Chesire claims he did not want to sign documents without a lawyer.
“All he was asking for was to know what he was being asked to sign,” said Valenzuela, who heads the detention project of the National Immigrant Justice Center.
The suit claims officers forcibly obtained Chesire’s fingerprint, hurled racial slurs, beat him, slammed his head against a wall and left him unconscious in a cell.
An ambulance took Chesire to Rush University Medical Center’s emergency department, according to Chicago Fire Department and hospital records. Rush diagnosed him with a head injury and, within a few hours, released him back to immigration officers, the records stated.
The officers said he had “refused to cooperate with fingerprinting and became aggressive,” according to the hospital report on Chesire’s visit.
One of the officers said Chesire had resisted “four officers called to ‘gently lay’ [him] down to the ground,” according to the report.
Chesire had “no bleeding or deformity noted on head-to-toe survey,” according to the fire department records, which also claimed that “bystanders” said Chesire had not lost consciousness.
Valenzuela said she had spoken with a detainee in the adjoining cell who claims to have witnessed part of the incident and backs Chesire’s claim of having lost consciousness.
Valenzuela said it may not be a coincidence that the incident took place the day after Donald Trump won the presidential election.
She pointed out that Trump’s candidacy was backed by the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council, a union that represents immigration officers and support staffers.
Valenzuela said Trump’s rhetoric on immigrants may have “created the impression that anything goes” when carrying out a deportation.
Asked about the incident, ICE spokeswoman Gail Montenegro emailed a statement that said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.
“ICE holds its employees to the highest standards of professionalism and ethical conduct and takes any allegations of misconduct very seriously,” the statement said.
Among the five defendants, the suit identifies only Edward Vigare, a deportation officer who could not be reached for comment. The other defendants are listed as John Doe.
An online ICE detainee locator indicates the agency is holding Chesire in the Pulaski County Jail in downstate Illinois.
You can read Chesire’s lawsuit below.