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Trump Admin. & Local Police Clash Over Immigration Detention Policy

by Countable | 8.21.17

What’s the story?

The Fourth Amendment protects everyone from being detained beyond the length of time stipulated for the crime. Now Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is trying to get local law enforcement to keep undocumented immigrants beyond the stipulated time allowed by law, and even sympathetic sheriffs are saying that it is not okay.

Why does it matter?

The issue is detainers, which are documents issued by ICE requesting that local law enforcement hold a potentially deportable individual for up to 48 hours beyond the time they would have been released on local criminal charges, giving federal officials time to take them into federal custody. Immigration charges are civil, not criminal, and local officials cannot legally make immigration arrests.

Compliance with detainers is optional for local law enforcement due to this separation of federal and local powers. Some local jurisdictions have refused to honor detainers, arguing that local law enforcement cannot act as tools of the federal government and still keep their communities safe because immigrants will stop reporting crimes over fear of being deported. They also point out that detainers have been repeatedly ruled unconstitutional by the courts. If law enforcement officials violate the Constitution they leave themselves open to litigation and civil penalties.

Sheriff Richard Stanek, of Hennepin County, Minn., told The Daily Beast that ICE is demanding sheriffs violate the Constitution:

"The current ICE detainer notion that Sheriffs can and should hold alleged illegal aliens beyond the time that their local charges are adjudicated is in violation of their constitutional rights while in the United States of America, and ICE knows this."

Some local sheriffs are sympathetic to the administration and are working through the National Sheriffs Association to craft a solution that would allow local jails to become "contractors" for ICE while protecting themselves from legal liability. The New York Times reports that the legal tactic being proposed is that “ICE and the sheriff would sign a contract that pays the sheriff’s department a daily fee to hold the immigrant until ICE can take the person into custody.”

The only thing they’re waiting on is for ICE to draw up the agreement and circulate it to sheriffs to sign up, but ICE wants to run pilot programs first. Meanwhile, local law enforcement is being painted by the administration as being non-compliant, but until agreements are signed even sympathetic sheriffs agree their hands are legally tied. Sheriff Gabriel Morgan of Newport News, VA told the Times:

"You’re giving me a detainer that’s not worth the paper it’s written on in my courts. Then you are trying to say I’m not looking out for public safety. Well, that’s problematic."

What do you think?

Should local law enforcement be allowed to contract with ICE to detain immigrants? Does local law enforcement enforcing federal law put communities at greater or less risk?

Use the Take Action button to tell your reps what you think!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: Wikimedia / Creative Commons)

Countable

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