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January 14, 2021

Sara Medrano and RISE Coalition Challenged Racist Policing and Won

FREDERICK, MD – In a remarkable victory as 2021 begins, Sara Medrano, a Latina Frederick County resident, along with the Resources for Immigrant Support and Empowerment (RISE) Coalition of Western Maryland, a coalition committed to serving, elevating, and empowering the immigrant community in Western Maryland, today announced successful resolution of their federal civil rights action charging Frederick County and its Sheriff’s Department with racial profiling and wrongful detention. In the Medrano v. Jenkins lawsuit, immigrants challenged notorious anti-immigrant Frederick County Sheriff Charles Jenkins and prevailed.

Jazmin DiCola from the RISE Coalition of Western Maryland, said: “Medrano v. Jenkins is proof of the Frederick County Sheriff Department’s lack of accountability and responsibility after the court rulings in the Santos v. Frederick County Board of Commissioners case. They have continued to demonstrate systematic racism in their policing, by racially profiling and demonizing community members of color. Medrano is the face of many who, like her, suffered from the abuse of local policing. This settlement is just the beginning, but it is not enough. The community needs accountability and transparency for biased policing and the end of the 287(g) program to avoid new cases like Medrano and Santos.”

On July 7, 2018, Sara Medrano was driving with her daughter and grandchildren when two Frederick sheriff’s deputies stopped her – purportedly for a broken tail light – and questioned where she was from and what her immigration status was. Then the deputies unlawfully tried to hold her for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in violation of the Fourth Amendment. When Ms. Medrano finally returned home, she realized that her tail light was working just fine and that the deputies, in fact, stopped and questioned her because she was Latina.

Sara Medrano said: “It’s not right what they did to me. I believe there is racism within the police force. It is not just what they are doing against Hispanic people. We are all equal in this country.”

The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office has harassed other members of the RISE Coalition, unlawfully targeting and questioning them for suspected immigration violations, including the targeting of Latinx U.S. citizens. Sheriff Jenkins has even called the recipients of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program “hardcore gangbangers.”

After a delay in the litigation due to court closures during the pandemic, U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett on July 27, 2020 soundly rejected Frederick Sheriff Charles Jenkins’ multi-pronged attack on the lawsuit in a sweeping ruling from the bench. Judge Bennett held that the plaintiffs would be allowed to sue Frederick County, Sheriff Jenkins, personally, as well as Deputies Randy Barrera and Brian Mothershead, who were the deputies who stopped Sara Medrano.

Following the Court’s sweeping ruling in favor of Ms. Medrano and the RISE Coalition, the parties successfully entered into settlement negotiations, assisted by a magistrate judge.

The comprehensive agreement awards $25,000 in damages to Ms. Medrano, along with – remarkably – a written apology from Sheriff Jenkins for the misconduct she endured. In the letter, Sheriff Jenkins recognizes that his deputies’ actions were improper. The defendants also agreed to implement training for deputies to try to prevent future racial profiling, to conduct public meetings where information about the 287(g) program is presented, and make information regarding racial profiling and biased policing publicly available. Finally, the defendants agreed to pay the plaintiffs $100,000 in costs and attorneys’ fees.

Brian Whittaker, Counsel at Nixon Peabody LLP, said: “Today is a victorious day for Sara Medrano, RISE, and for the immigrant community. After our representation of Roxana Orellana Santos, a Latina woman who endured devastating racial profiling by the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, the settlement here brings us one step closer toward holding local officials accountable when racism infects their practices and policies.”

“Discriminatory policing and racial profiling have lasting traumatic consequences for Black and Latinx communities,” said Nick Taichi Steiner, staff attorney at the ACLU of Maryland. “The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office has a long history of targeting people based on nothing but their race, regardless of whether or not they are a U.S. citizen. I’m proud to be here in solidarity with Ms. Medrano and the RISE Coalition to protect the Constitutional rights of immigrants and hold the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office accountable for their discriminatory policing of the immigrant community. We will continue to advocate for a better Maryland for Black, Indigenous, and immigrants of color.”

Sara Medrano and the RISE Coalition are represented by Nick Taichi Steiner and Deborah Jeon of the ACLU of Maryland, and John Hayes and Brian Whittaker of Nixon Peabody LLP.