City of Laguna Beach to Pay DACA Recipient in Settlement Deal


LAGUNA BEACH, Calif. (Jan. 22, 2020) — The City of Laguna Beach has agreed to pay a settlement to Edgar Torres Gutierrez, a local resident who has Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status. The settlement was in response to a claim filed on Torres Gutierrez’s behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California.

The University of California, Irvine School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic is co-counsel in the case.

Torres Gutierrez — who is a student at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa and works at multiple jobs to support himself — was improperly held by Laguna Beach police for federal immigration officials in 2018. As a result, he remained in local custody for approximately 15 hours. His detention and transfer at the request of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was a violation of the California Values Act, which restricts local law enforcement’s cooperation with ICE.

The claim, filed in November 2018, also charged that Laguna Beach violated Torres Gutierrez’s U.S. constitutional rights against unlawful search and seizure, as well as his right to due process, and several state laws.

Torres Gutierrez was transferred to ICE and held for several more hours before being released. He was not charged with any immigration violations.

“I still think about my experience with the Laguna Beach police,” Torres Gutierrez said. “When the officer told me I was not going to be able to go home, I became fearful. I also felt betrayed. I take responsibility for the actions that led to my arrest, but I didn’t deserve to be treated differently than other residents who put their trust in the police.”

On June 3, 2018, Torres Gutierrez was arrested by the Laguna Beach Police Department on suspicion of driving under the influence (he later pled guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving). When ICE was informed of the arrest, it asked that Torres Gutierrez be held by the police so he could be transferred to federal custody. This is commonly known as an “ICE hold.”

But the California Values Act, also known as the state sanctuary law, bans local law enforcement from detaining people like Torres Gutierrez at ICE’s request. And in another violation, Torres Gutierrez was not notified of the ICE request that he be detained. 

He first reported the detainment and transfer to the LGBTQ Center Orange County, where he had worked as a volunteer. That led to the case being taken up by the ACLU SoCal and UCI Immigrant Rights Clinic.

“We are so happy that Edgar will be able to get some closure on this chapter of his life,” said Annie Lai, Co-Director of the UCI Immigrant Rights Clinic. “The Laguna Beach police should not have been helping ICE deport DACA recipients and, because Edgar came forward, now other residents hopefully won’t have to experience what he did.”

Third-year law student Evan Ormond and UCI Law graduates Caspian Nash and Denise Torres worked on the case.

In the settlement — ratified by Torres Gutierrez and the City of Laguna Beach — Torres Gutierrez is to be paid $18,750 by the city. Laguna Beach has also agreed to show a training video on the pertinent laws to all sworn officers in its police department, and all newly hired officers as they join the force. 

Finally, the settlement provides that Torres Gutierrez can file an official complaint with the police department, which is expected to trigger an internal investigation into the circumstances that led to his detention and transfer. That complaint is being filed by Torres Gutierrez’s legal representatives today.

ACLU SoCal Senior Staff Attorney Jessica Bansal said that the organization will closely monitor compliance with the California Values Act in Laguna Beach and throughout the state.

Read the settlement agreement here.

Read the official complaint filed with the Laguna Beach Police Department today

Media Contact:

Annie Lai
UC Irvine School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic