Ms. Morales was born in Guatemala and became a United States citizen in 1995. In May 2009, she was arrested on state charges by Rhode Island police and, while she was being held in state custody, ICE lodged a detainer against her. Even though a judge ordered Ms. Morales released shortly after her arrest, Rhode Island officials continued to hold her in custody for an additional 24 hours because of the ICE detainer. Ms. Morales told the Rhode Island officials that she was a U.S. citizen and offered to show them her naturalization certificate and passport, but no one would listen. She was only released after ICE agents took her into federal custody, transported her to their office, and interviewed her. Upon releasing her, one ICE agent apologized for her wrongful detention, but acknowledged that it could happen again in the future. In fact, Ms. Morales had been unlawfully detained in virtually identical circumstances once before, in 2004.
In April 2012, Ms. Morales filed a lawsuit against federal and state defendants, alleging violations of her Fourth Amendment and due process rights and her rights under state law. She is represented by the ACLU of Rhode Island, the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, and Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP.