- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 26, 2014

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - Two Connecticut residents said Wednesday that they have reached a settlement with federal immigration officials in which deportation proceedings against the men were terminated in exchange for dismissal of claims they made in a lawsuit.

Gabriel Villanueva-Ojanama of Hartford and Sebastian Manuel Castro Largo of Meriden had alleged that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had caused their unlawful detention by issuing immigration detainers to Connecticut law enforcement authorities. The men were arrested by police in 2011 in separate incidents and convicted for driving offenses.

The men were represented by Yale Law School students who argued the case did not merit an enforcement priority for ICE, citing the family and community ties of the men in Connecticut and minimal criminal history.

ICE spokesman Daniel Modricker declined to discuss the specifics the settlement but said parties involved in litigation routinely seek to resolve the matters in the “least disruptive manner without any concession of wrong-doing.”

Villanueva-Ojanama, 37, and Castro Largo, 34, have lived in Connecticut for more than four years, the students said.

Both were held by local authorities on the ICE detainers, extending their incarceration several days after the expiration of their criminal custody, students said. ICE often issues detainers in violation of federal laws and regulations that govern them, causing local police to unlawfully imprison immigrants while awaiting further investigation by ICE, the students say.

“We are thrilled that ICE agreed to terminate our clients’ cases, and we celebrate our clients’ victory. Mr. Villanueva-Ojanama and Mr. Castro Largo can now return to their lives with peace of mind,” said Temidayo Odusolu, a law student intern with the Worker & Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic of the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale Law School. “We hope this settlement can inform ICE and immigration advocates across the country engaged in ongoing debate over detainers practices.”

ICE says local authorities may only hold an immigrant on a detainer for up to 48 hours and detainees can contact the agency’s intake center with complaints.