Carlos Rueda’s story was first uncovered by The Intercept

This is an extended version of a story that appears in the October 4, 2018, issue.

Carlos Rueda says he’s many things—a father of three, a blue-collar roofer and a Sacramento resident who left Mexico years ago after his political volunteerism became compromised by death threats. But one thing he is not, he says, is an informant for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that has ratcheted up its apprehension of suspected undocumented immigrants in the communities where they live since Donald Trump came to office.

Rueda’s story of refusing to cooperate with ICE after its agents threatened him with deportation last year first came to light in The Intercept, an online investigative news outlet. According to an ICE summary of the arrest, obtained by Rueda’s attorney and provided to The Intercept, ICE outlined that its Sacramento Fugitive Operations Team encountered Rueda, identified only as the “SUBJECT,” on March 3 of last year. The summary goes on to say that Rueda was released on a deferred deportation status called “OSUP,” for “Order of Supervision,” meaning Rueda was required to check in on a monthly basis. The summary makes clear the point of these check-ins, stating the “SUBJECT would report monthly and provide leads on criminal aliens.”

Rueda says he never agreed to that arrangement, and was beaten when he refused to inform on other undocumented immigrants.

By ICE’s own account, these meet-ups went on for more than six months. Because Rueda says he refused to name names, he and his attorney allege that ICE agents started assaulting him during these de facto interrogations, slamming his head on the table, jamming their knees in his stomach and ribs repeatedly, and coming close to dislocating both of his shoulders. In a statement, Rueda said the federal authorities “brutalized” him.

“I thought I would never see my wife and children again,” he said. “But I put my life in the hands of God and I never turned my back on my community. I never gave ICE any names, and they punished me.”

Whatever happened inside the interrogation room, by late September of last year ICE realized it wasn’t breaking Rueda. “Due to SUBJECT’s inability to provide any assistance to ICE the decision was made that SUBJECT would be taken into custody on his next reporting date of 09/26/17,” the summary states.

That morning, Rueda showed up for his check-in like usual. In the lobby of the Sacramento federal building, a deportation officer braced Rueda and took him into custody. According to booking logs from the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, a man identified as Carlos Alfredo Rueda-Cruz, 27, of Sacramento was arrested by ICE that same date.

Rueda, now 28, was one of more than 2,100 people that ICE arrested in Sacramento County between October 2014 and October 2017, according to new data from TRAC Immigration, a nonpartisan research arm of Syracuse University.

Rueda and his attorney Luis Angel Reyes Savalza want to know how many of those 2,100 were bullied into becoming informants, like they say ICE tried to do with Rueda. Last week, Rueda and Savalza announced they would be filing a federal complaint seeking $750,000 in damages from the agency.

“Today, we are taking legal steps to hold ICE accountable and ensure that the nightmare that Mr. Rueda endured, happens to no one again,” Savalza said in a statement. “By exhibiting bravery, Mr. Rueda is a testament to the will of immigrant communities to overcome injustice.”

On Tuesday, California Sen. Kamala D. Harris and two Democratic colleagues introduced legislation that would require the Department of Homeland Security to establish pilot programs putting body-worn cameras on customs and ICE agents.