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(Tribune file photo) David Morales was detained by the U.S. Border Patrol while on a bus ride from Albuquerque to Phoenix -- but released after officials confirmed his previous illegal immigration case had been closed. The immigration activist recently moved from Utah, where he had resided since brought here illegally by parents at the age of 9.
Illegal immigrant says agent violated his civil rights
ICE » David Morales claims he was told not to speak out or he would be put back in jail.
First Published Mar 26 2012 06:24 pm • Last Updated Mar 26 2012 11:26 pm

David Morales learned Monday that being an illegal immigrant doesn’t mean he’s immune to something American citizens complain about regularly — layers of bureaucracy and red tape.

The 20-year-old West Valley City resident attempted to file a complaint against a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, who he alleged violated his civil rights by telling him to not speak publicly about his case or else face having his bond revoked and being put back in jail pending his deportation hearing.

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Morales showed up at the Immigration Court and ICE field office near the Maverik Center and was led to a room, where he waited for an ICE supervisor to come out. The supervisor told him he couldn’t file the complaint there. Instead, he’d have to call a toll-free number or file the complaint through an email.

"They told me to email the complaint and they might get back to me," Morales said. "Not they ‘will get back to me,’ but might get back to me."

Morales said he was disappointed he couldn’t deliver the complaint in person to a government official.

"It’s supposed to be the justice system, but they’re not doing any justice at all," Morales said.

Ultimately, he went to the Mexican Consulate, where officials there confirmed they assisted him with filing his complaint against ICE.

Morales was a beneficiary of a controversial directive from the Obama administration that sought to prioritize deportations by closing low-priority cases while actively pursuing illegal immigrants who have committed crimes.

Brought to the United States by his parents when he was 9, Morales fits much of the criteria in the new directive, including his age, lack of criminal record and potential to be a DREAM Act beneficiary.

The complaint he filed centered on his arrest by U.S. Border Patrol agents in January 2011 when he was on a bus bound for Louisiana to attend a Bible college and was unable to prove he was in the country legally.

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After posting bond and going back to Utah, he alleged the ICE agent he dealt with was "rude" and threatened him through his lawyer to stop speaking publicly about his case or else be placed back in jail.

"His action, I believe, was a violation of my freedom of speech," Morales said.

Morales said he didn’t file a complaint earlier because he didn’t know it was an option available to him.

ICE spokeswoman Lori Haley said complaints are being funneled through the Office of the Inspector General through a hot-line.

She said the time frame for the investigation of a complaint "is determined by how long it takes to gather all of the necessary evidence to reach conclusion."

dmontero@sltrib.comTwitter: @davemontero

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