Mother wrongly jailed - Guilty til proven innocent

We've just learned about ANOTHER story showing the depths of the breaks in our immigration system. How many more will be wrongly jailed? Where?

Mother Mistaken For Illegal Immigrant Wrongly Jailed

POSTED: 9:55 am CDT August 31, 2007 UPDATED: 10:42 am CDT August 31, 2007

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Arlington police vow to change their procedures after wrongly jailing a mother of three.

Alicia Rodriguez missed her son's first day of kindergarten because she was mistaken for an illegal immigrant.

"I was afraid and nervous. I just didn't know," she said.

Rodriguez doesn't even speak Spanish, but that didn't stop her from ending up behind bars, held as an illegal immigrant.

"I had never been to jail before. It was really scary. It was, you know, dirty and cramped," she said.

The single mother of three said she forgot about paying two old traffic tickets and had no problem with her arrest, until they told her she couldn’t get out of jail.

"I was shocked, yeah. What do you mean there's an immigration hold? I'm an American citizen. How can there be a hold on me?" she said.

Rodriguez should have been freed within hours, after arranging to pay her fine. Instead, she had to spend the night in jail and missed her son's first day of kindergarten.

"I was guilty until proven innocent," Rodriguez said.

Police checked an FBI database and found her name, date of birth, and description matched that of an illegal immigrant from Mexico.

Jailers called federal immigration agents, who ordered her held.

Police admit that if they had simply checked her fingerprints, they would have discovered their mistake.

"The information was overlooked. It's a very unfortunate error and we do apologize for it," Arlington police spokeswoman Christy Gilfour said.

"I accept their apology, sure. I also would hope they would make sure that the procedures in place are actually utilized so this doesn't happen to anyone again," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez was released after police in nearby Dalworthington Gardens, where she originally received the traffic tickets, realized she wasn't an illegal immigrant.

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