Our VoiceImmigrationNews & Politics

US District Court Rules Law Enforcement Liable for Unlawful ICE Holds

Lauren Taylor • Feb 19, 2014

via Creative Commons

As state and local policies that would roll back entanglements between local law enforcement and ICE authorities advance, anti-immigrant groups have honed their messaging in order to dupe the public and to block common-sense legislation. A recent district court ruling in Rhode Island, however, exposes the dubiousness of rhetoric used by such groups to oppose bills like the Maryland Trust Act and the limited-detainer policies presently standing in cities like Chicago, Washington, DC, and New Orleans.

Last Wednesday, a district court judge ruled that Ada Morales’ constitutional rights were violated when she was held on an immigration detainer based on her country of origin, and that a lawsuit against state and federal officials could continue. Morales, a US citizen naturalized in 1995, was twice subjected to unlawful detainers that local law enforcement officials choose to honor, ultimately transferring Morales to ICE custody.

The case itself, and the situation Morales found herself in, clearly contradict messages disseminated by anti-immigrant groups to defend interior enforcement programs like Secure Communities. In 2012, Ira Mehlman, spokesperson for the stridently anti-immigrant Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), urged a veto of the California Trust Act, saying, “We also have to remember that these days under the current administration, ICE is only asking for detainers against people they consider to be a threat to American society.”

Morales’ case and a recently released study by Syracuse University reveal that ICE’s enforcement programs cast a wide net, and often operate under a logic of guilty until proven innocent. The Syracuse study analyzed 436,000 ICE detainer requests in 2012 and 2013. Researchers found that: “the overwhelming proportion of detainers — about four out of five, 82 percent — were issued for individuals who either had no convictions, or had at most been convicted of a misdemeanor or petty offense of some type.”

In recent years, record-level detention and deportations have decimated migrant communities, pushing many advocates and organizers to fight back. Under the banner of Not One More, organizers have blocked deportation transfers and called for an end to all deportations. The anti-immigrant movement has responded with a slew of manipulated data and rhetoric, arguing that deportations and detentions are not high enough. But for nativist groups, the numbers will never be enough. Despite record-setting deportations, these groups will continue to push the envelope – both in terms of sheer numbers and constitutionality.

Such groups will also oppose anything that makes life “easier” for those without papers — their doctrine of “self-deportation.” As Brad Botwin of Help Save Maryland stated:  “The bottom line is, they should not be here…They are using my schools, my social services, my hospitals without legal presence, and therefore they can and should be detained and removed.” Help Save Maryland is an active ant-immigrant group and state contact for FAIR.

Such biased opponents of limited-detainer policies and Trust Acts have alleged that these policies circumvent the enforcement of federal immigration law. Jessica Vaughn of FAIR sister-organization Center for Immigration Studies has called Trust Act bills a form of amnesty.  But according to Kate Desormeau of the ACLU, the US District Court presiding over the Morales case “recognized that immigration detainers are simply requests from the federal government – not orders – and that state and local officials can be held legally responsible if they choose to jail people on that basis without probable cause or due process, in violation of the Constitution.”

 This decision sends a clear message that ICE holds are requests, not commands, and that law enforcement officials who comply with the holds are legally responsible and liable for their decisions.

Imagine 2050 Newsletter

  • translate

    English • Afrikaans • العربية • Беларуская • Български • Català • Česky • Cymraeg • Dansk • Deutsch • Eesti • Ελληνικά • Español • فارسی • Français • Gaeilge • Galego • हिन्दी • Hrvatski • Bahasa Indonesia • Íslenska • Italiano • עברית • Latviešu • Lietuvių • 한국어 • Magyar • Македонски • മലയാളം • Malti • Nederlands • 日本語 • Norsk (Bokmål) • Polski • Português • Română • Русский • Slovenčina • Slovenščina • Shqip • Srpski • Suomi • Svenska • Kiswahili • ไทย • Tagalog • Türkçe • Українська • Tiếng Việt • ייִדיש. • 中文 / 漢語