Colorado counties join Oregon, Philadelphia to end unconstitutional ICE holds

Lauren Taylor • May 03, 2014

This week, two Colorado sheriffs announced that they will stop honoring requests from Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold immigrant detainees. The sheriffs join a growing number of Oregon counties and the city of Philadelphia as the latest municipalities to limit cooperation with immigration authorities. These decisions are a result of court rulings in Oregon and Pennsylvania that have found cities and counties liable for violating the constitutional rights of some detainees.

On April 11, a federal judge in Clackamas County, Oregon, ruled that a woman’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated when she was detained for two weeks after her charges were resolved because of an ICE hold. Also known as immigration detainers, ICE sends requests, often interpreted as mandates, to local law enforcement instructing them to notify ICE when someone is about to be released and to hold them for an additional 48 hours.

The Clackamas County court ruling reinforced what advocates have long said: immigration holds are requests, not commands, and that the county is responsible (and liable) for violations of a person’s constitutional rights. Following the court’s ruling, at least 13 counties in Oregon have stopped honoring ICE holds or immigration holds. The Center for Intercultural Organizing (CIO) in Oregon celebrated the ruling last week, calling it a huge victory:

As a member of the Activists Coming Together (ACT) Network, CIO has worked hard to convince our local jails to stop honoring ICE holds and keep our families together. We are finally seeing our hard work pay off. In light of the recent court ruling, Sheriffs in Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, Marion, Gilliam, Wasco, Hood River, Deschutes, Jefferson, Sherman, Jackson, **Wheeler, and Crook counties have announced they will no longer be honoring ICE holds! We can expect to see this continue throughout Oregon – and the court decision will likely have effects across the country.

The decisions in Oregon followed an Executive Order signed by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter to limit cooperation between ICE and the Philadelphia Police Department and stop police from turning over immigrants to ICE who don’t have criminal convictions.

This week two Colorado counties have followed Oregon’s lead, “This recent court decision in Oregon is a game changer regarding ICE holds on detainers,” wrote Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle in an email shared with the Associated Press (AP). Pelle also explained that “inmates with ICE detainers will be released once any state or federal charges are resolved.”

These counties join other municipal and state governments — including New Orleans, Chicago, Miami, and the state of California — in limiting cooperation with immigration detainers. In New Orleans, a powerful campaign convinced the sheriff to reverse his support for ICE holds.

“The sheriff’s previous policy led to systematic racial profiling and severe constitutional violations. The new policy can serve as a model both for local communities and policymakers in Washington, DC,” According to J.J. Rosenbaum, legal director of the New Orleans Worker Center for Racial Justice.

While the national ramifications of limiting local cooperation with ICE detainer requests are still unknown, the impact at the community level is significant. ICE holds are a key component of an expanding criminalization of undocumented immigrants, record deportations, and the prevalence of racial profiling. The National Immigrant Justice Center explains on its website:  “Detainers increase the likelihood of racial profiling, as officers may use ‘foreign-sounding’ last names, place of birth, or racial appearance as reasons to report an individual for investigation.”

Image source: Immigration and Customs Enforcement

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