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Key Victory for Police Sergeant in Illegal Alien Sanctuary Lawsuit


Judicial Watch client Sergeant Joslyn Johnson, the widow of a fellow police officer gunned down by an illegal alien criminal, may finally get her day in court thanks to a landmark court victory!

On September 9, 2011, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled in favor of Sergeant Johnson. The three-judge panel reversed a decision by the district court. Sgt. Johnson’s lawsuit against the city of Houston’s illegal sanctuary policy will now continue.

As noted by the appellate court, under the Houston Police Department’s (HPD) illegal alien sanctuary policy, “HPD officers are forbidden from notifying federal authorities that they have encountered a known illegal alien unless they arrest that person on a ‘separate criminal charge (other than a class C misdemeanor).'”

Moreover, Houston’s sanctuary policy also prevents police officers from obtaining immigration information from a number of federal government databases. (The policy only allows police officers to check the “wanted” status of an illegal alien from a single federal database that tracks illegal aliens who have been convicted and deported for “drug trafficking, firearms trafficking, or serious violent crimes.”)

As we argued in our September 21, 2009, lawsuit on behalf of Sergeant Johnson, Houston’s restrictive illegal alien sanctuary policies harm her ability to communicate with federal immigration officials:

Officer Johnson does not seek to detain or arrest persons in order to inquire about their immigration status…Rather plaintiff [Johnson] seeks to use her professional judgment to determine when it is appropriate to contact ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] to inquire or provide information about a person’s immigration status if, in the course of carrying out her duties and responsibilities as a law enforcement officer, she has reason to believe a crime may have been committed.

To this point, Sergeant Johnson has not even been able to make this case in a court of law.

The district court dismissed her lawsuit on a technicality, ruling that Sgt. Johnson was precluded from bringing the lawsuit because the court had previously dismissed a separate lawsuit over the death of her husband. The appellate court reversed this decision, ruling that the lower court had incorrectly determined that Sgt. Johnson’s lawsuit was essentially “duplicative” of her previous lawsuit and had therefore already been adjudicated.

Now we go back to the district court.

This is a tremendous victory. Judicial Watch is very much looking forward to the opportunity to try to end Houston’s lawless sanctuary policies that place law enforcement officers and the citizens of Houston at risk.

On September 21, 2006, Sergeant Johnson’s husband, Officer Rodney Johnson, was making a routine traffic stop when he was shot and killed by Juan Leonardo Quintero-Perez, a previously-deported Mexican national who had reentered and was living in the U.S. illegally. After reentering the U.S. illegally, Quintero-Perez had multiple interactions with the HPD before shooting and killing Officer Johnson, including at least one arrest for driving under the influence and citations for failing to stop and give information following an accident and driving with a suspended license.

Unfortunately for the citizens of Houston, the city has become a hotbed for illegal alien criminal activity. Judicial Watch uncovered a shocking sex trafficking operation set up by illegal aliens right under the nose of the HPD. This operation was kept alive by illegal alien sanctuary policies. JW also uncovered documents showing that Houston immigration officials, at the direction of the Obama administration, suspended the deportations of dangerous illegal aliens convicted of violent crimes, including sexual assault, solicitation of murder, aggravated assault, assaulting a police officer, and kidnapping, as well as numerous drug charges.

And earlier this year, yet another Houston police officer, Kevin Will, was struck and killed by an illegal alien drunk driver as he was investigating a hit and run traffic accident.

Now that Sergeant Johnson can make her case in court, she could be able to help put an end to illegal alien sanctuary policies in Houston before the list of victims can grow any longer.

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