SALINAS, Calif. - A Salinas teen, who was facing deportation for allegedly trespassing at Monterey County Jail in March and was mistakenly handed over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents because of a “procedural error”, will be released this afternoon according to his lawyer Blanca Zarazua.
Monterey County Sheriff's Office Sheriff Steve Bernal had said there was a form that is filled out for inmates asking if they or a family member are affiliated with a gang. The form for 19-year-old Juan Manuel Martinez indicated he or a family member was affiliated with a gang, when in fact he personally was not.
On Monday, Bernal said the form was used to determine gang affiliation with the purpose of keeping inmates safe inside the jail. During Martinez's release, Bernal said ICE flagged him because of the designation that Martinez was affiliated with a gang.
“We’ve corrected that error and we hope that no one falls through the cracks again and we are continuing to monitor it,” said Bernal.
Martinez was brought to the U.S. from Mexico as a young child and is a DREAMer, with temporary legal status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, according to his attorney Blanca Zarazua.
“That (DACA) is certainly something we are going to present to the judge. His DACA authorization doesn’t expire until may of next year," said Zarazua. “He is a fine individual. I’ve talked to him several times. He has gotten high school achievement awards. He’s gotten a certificate of appreciation as a volunteer.”
Zarazua said Martinez pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of trespassing. Martinez allegedly had drugs with him at the time of his arrest, but those charges were later dropped. The day he was to be released from jail he was arrested by an ICE agent, said Zarazua.
“(He) got mixed up at the wrong place, at the wrong time and had a conviction of a simple trespass. Exiting the jail ICE decided they were going to detain him and he has been detained ever since,” said Zarazua.
Martinez is waiting at a federal detention center and his hearing will take place in San Francisco on Wednesday. Zarazua said Martinez has no prior convictions and she's optimistic the judge will release him. Even if Martinez is released there will be another court date to determine deportation charges, said Zarazua.