CONCORD — The town of Northwood has paid $12,500 to settle claims brought by a Hispanic man arrested by Northwood police last September under suspicions of being in the United States illegally, the American Civil Liberties Union announced Tuesday.
Northwood police have changed their policy as a result of the suit, the ACLU-NH said. The organization said their client, Johoani Velasco Perea, is pleased with the settlement, but did not say how much of the monetary award he shall receive.
The case was about police arresting people they suspect of being in the United States illegally, ACLU-NH said in statement. In police reports, the Northwood officer says he arrested Perea because he was Hispanic and suspicious, they said.
“Local New Hampshire police departments should not stop, detain, search, or arrest any individual based solely on that type of suspicion,” said Gilles Bissonnette, legal director of the ACLU-NH.
The town’s lawyer, Brian Cullen, said several aspects of the encounter with Perea and his co-workers remain in dispute, including whether he was detained or arrested. He said police saw the three walking down the road at night and then go behind the building where they worked. One of the three had an immigration issue, and ICE arrived and took him into custody, Cullen said.
“We believe that the officers acted appropriately in responding to what appeared to be suspicious activity at a local business,” Cullen wrote in an email.
As a result of the officer’s actions, one of the three men was eventually deported, according to previous newspaper reports.
But Perea was living legally in the United States under the DACA program, which grants residency to people who entered the country illegally at a young age. Perea lives in North Carolina and still works in carport construction, the ACLU said.
While asserting the officer did nothing wrong, Cullen said Northwood police have adopted a new policy and training to address immigration-related law. He said the policy follows all federal, state, and local laws and guidelines on enforcing immigration law.
“Northwood police strive to maintain the highest possible standards, protecting both citizens and businesses while ensuring that the rights of every resident and visitor to Northwood are honored,” he said.