Media Release from Immigrant Rights Clinic: Orange County Sheriff’s Department to Pay Garden Grove Resident and Father in Settlement Deal


IRVINE, Calif. (Dec. 17, 2021) — The Immigrant Rights Clinic at University of California, Irvine School of Law announced that Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) has agreed to pay a settlement to Kelvin Hernandez Roman, a husband and father of three who was transferred by OCSD to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody in 2019. The settlement is in response to a lawsuit filed on Mr. Hernandez Roman’s behalf by the University of California, Irvine School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic. 

On July 16, 2019, Mr. Hernandez Roman—who was in custody following an arrest by the Tustin Police Department—should have been released after the District Attorney notified OCSD that it was declining to file any charges at that time. However, instead of promptly being processed for release like everyone else that day, the lawsuit alleges that Mr. Hernandez Roman was held for additional time solely on the basis of an ICE detainer. He was not released until after midnight on July 17, 2019, when he was transferred to ICE custody. This overdetention violated Mr. Hernandez Roman’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizure, as well as the California Values Act (SB 54), which prohibits law enforcement from holding any individual in custody past the time the individual would normally be released. Because OCSD failed to notify Mr. Hernandez Roman of the ICE detainer, the lawsuit alleges that OCSD further violated the Transparent Review of Unjust Transfers and Holds Act, or TRUTH Act. 

“In 2020, Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes consistently turned community members over to ICE, subjecting them to costly and unnecessary additional detention at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Ana Ramirez, member of the Orange County Rapid Response Network. “This resulted in Orange County having the highest number of ICE transfers in the State of California. It is the reason why immigrant rights advocates have labeled Sheriff Barnes #DeporterInChief.” 

After Mr. Hernandez Roman was transferred to ICE, he spent the next nine months at Adelanto ICE Processing Center, a detention facility operated by the private prison company The GEO Group in Adelanto, Calif. He was separated from his two young children and his wife, who was pregnant at the time, and ultimately missed the birth of his youngest daughter.  

“Seeing and experiencing firsthand, the injustice that takes place behind bars at Adelanto Detention Facility made me realize I needed to take action not just for myself, but for other community members that are impacted too,” said Mr. Hernandez Roman.  

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Mr. Hernandez Roman, who suffers from asthma, feared for his life. Detention centers, jails and prisons became epicenters of COVID-19 outbreaks, further exposing the medical neglect that advocacy groups had been calling attention to for years. Shortly before bringing the instant litigation, Mr. Hernandez Roman also became a lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit challenging ICE’s failure to take adequate measures to protect detainees from COVID-19 at Adelanto.  

“The California Values Act and the TRUTH Act were enacted to protect the due process rights of people like Kelvin, regardless of immigration status,” said UCI Law third-year law student Laura Flores, one of the students working on the case. “Although we are happy for Kelvin and the outcome of this case, we hope that OCSD will take compliance with state laws seriously moving forward.”  

UCI Law students Laura Flores, Anna Hales, Itzel Figueroa, Mayra Lopez and Lucas Ru have worked on the case. They were supervised by Clinical Professor Annie Lai, Adjunct Clinical Professor Hannah Comstock and former Visiting Assistant Clinical Professor Mónica Ramírez Almadani.  

As part of the settlement, Mr. Hernandez Roman has reserved his right to file an official complaint with the OCSD about the circumstances of his detention and transfer to ICE, which may trigger an internal investigation by the Sheriff’s Department. In addition, the UCI Law Immigrant Rights Clinic and OCRRN intend to continue their advocacy efforts with county officials to ensure future compliance with state and federal laws.

Media Contacts:

UCI Law Contact:
Hannah Comstock 

OCRRN Contact:
Ana Ramirez Zarate