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Immigrant sues Chicago police, alleging gang database error

CHICAGO – A Mexican immigrant ordered to leave the U.S. this month filed a lawsuit against Chicago police Tuesday, alleging he was wrongly listed in a gang database and that it cost him the chance to get protection through a federal program and remain in the country.

Luis Vicente Pedrote-Salinas, 25, was brought to the country when he was 5 years old and doesn’t have legal permission to stay, according to the lawsuit. He was hoping to stay under an executive policy started in the Obama administration which grants young immigrants meeting certain criteria temporary relief and a chance to get a work permit or study.

According to the lawsuit, Pedrote was stopped by Chicago police in January 2011 after he left a relative’s house and got into his car. Police spotted an unopened can of beer in the cup holder and took him into custody. Charges were dismissed, but officers said in the police report that they were assigned to the area as part of a “gang suppression mission” and claimed Pedrote was a Latin Kings member. Months later, immigration agents allegedly acting on the information from the database, raided Pedrote’s home. He was detained for six months.

Pedrote has been through deportation proceedings and agreed to voluntary departure on July 20. But attorneys said Tuesday that they’ll seek to reopen the case and delay the date because of the lawsuit. Attorneys say that if he loses the case, he’ll be automatically deported. Attorneys said Pedrote was never in a gang, is a model son and was a student athlete. The lawsuit, which alleges Chicago Police Department officers targeted him because of his race, says Pedrote was never allowed to challenge the information in the database.

In 2014, he filed an application for the federal program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, but was rejected despite meeting requirements, attorneys say.

“If CPD had not labeled Mr. Pedrote a gang member and included him in its Gang Database, his application for DACA likely would have been granted and he would have received deferred action from deportation,” the lawsuit states. “Mr. Pedrote’s liberty has been deprived based on false evidence used against him that he could not challenge.”

Pedrote told reporters Tuesday that he worked hard in school and held several jobs, including on assembly lines.

“I put my sweat in this city. I put my sweat in this country,” he said, adding he never did anything wrong. He said that if he gets to stay, he plans to finish college and pursue business administration.

Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi declined to comment, citing pending litigation. A Chicago spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a message.

The database maintained by police has been the subject of scrutiny before, including other lawsuits. A man injured during a raid by immigration agents filed a federal civil rights complaint in May, alleging authorities wrongly believed he was a gang member.

However, police say it’s used to target those to drive street violence in the city.

Attorneys with the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, a public interest law firm based at Northwestern University, helped prepare the lawsuit.

The complaint, which seeks a jury trial, alleges Pedrote’s constitutional rights were violated because he was denied due process and he was discriminated against. The complaint names Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, police officers and the city of Chicago. It seeks damages along with relief the court “may deem appropriate and just.”

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