LOS ANGELES--Today, six civil rights organizations, including the ACLU of California, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, the National Immigration Law Center and others, sent letters to every county in California urging officials to end compliance with immigration detainer requests in the wake of a recent federal court decision holding that the requests are unconstitutional and local law enforcement may be held liable for money damages for complying with them.
“The recent federal court decision is an important warning for local law enforcement throughout California,” said Julia Harumi Mass, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California. “Detaining people based on suspected civil immigration violations without probable cause not only wastes scarce local public safety resources and contradicts our sense of fairness – it undeniably violates the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”Immigration detainer requests are a key tool of Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Secure Communities deportation program. Their use has sharply increased under the Obama Administration, fueling unprecedented levels of deportations. But, unlike criminal warrants, immigration detainers--which ask local law enforcement to detain individuals suspected of civil immigration violations beyond their release dates--are not accompanied by judicial probable cause findings. The recent court decision, by a federal district judge in Oregon, holds that this is a fatal flaw; local law enforcement agencies that detain people on the basis of immigration detainers are violating the Fourth Amendment.
In wake of the court's decision, dozens of counties throughout Oregon, Washington, and Colorado have announced that they will stop complying with immigration detainers. Counties that continue to hold people on immigration detainers may face significant legal liability. In California, a pending class action lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department seeks money damages for tens of thousands of individuals held unlawfully on immigration detainers since 2011. Although the California TRUST Act has sharply limited compliance with immigration detainers throughout the state since it went into effect on January 1, 2014, local law enforcement agencies remain liable for any ongoing compliance with immigration detainers in violation of the federal constitution.
"We applaud the quick action by counties in Oregon, Washington, and Colorado to end compliance with these unconstitutional immigration detainer requests," said Jennie Pasquarella, a staff attorney at the ACLU of Southern California. "We have been warning California counties for years about the liability they face for detaining people on immigration detainers. We hope this recent decision will serve as a wake-up call--only a complete end to compliance with immigration detainers is sufficient to protect the constitutional rights of Californians."
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