ACLU and JFON Applaud Douglas County Policy Declining Immigration Detainer Requests
Nebraska’s four largest counties now ensure constitutional protections that build trust among immigrant communities, joining jurisdictions across the country that refuse to honor ICE detainer requests
October 2, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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LINCOLN Neb. – Douglas County has joined Sarpy, Hall and Lancaster Counties in adopting a policy declining to hold individuals in county jails based on requests issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The move comes in response to a series of letters sent by the ACLU of Nebraska and Justice for our Neighbors-Nebraska this summer.
“Douglas County is no longer honoring 48 hour detainer requests filed by ICE,” said Mark Foxall, Douglas County Corrections Director.
ICE routinely issues requests to jails and law enforcement agencies to hold people detained in their facilities for up to 48 hours (excluding weekends and holidays) longer than they would otherwise be released because of suspected civil immigration offenses. A growing list of municipalities around the country have refused to honor these requests from ICE. Agencies frequently cite the cost to local taxpayers as a primary reason.
“This move by Douglas County will improve public safety by fostering trust between local law enforcement and immigrant communities,” said Shane Ellison, Legal Director of Justice for Our Neighbors-Nebraska. “This program has proved to be a failure in Nebraska, as over half of all ICE holds have been filed on individuals with no conviction at all. The immigrants that want to be productive, contributing U.S. residents won’t come forward to report crimes if they see local law enforcement as an arm of ICE. This move will protect everyone’s public safety.”
In 2012, there were 729 immigration holds issued for Douglas County – nearly a quarter of all in the state. According to Ellison, citing the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Douglas County issued over five times more ICE detainers than any other county. Lancaster, Sarpy and Hall Counties made their decisions not to grant detainer requests earlier this year.
Currently in Nebraska, the ACLU has a lawsuit against Sarpy County over their previous policy of granting ICE detainer requests. One of the individuals held on a detainer was Ramon Mendoza, a naturalized US citizen. He was pulled over in Papillion for “windshield obstruction,” – his son’s boxing ribbon which was the size of a quarter. Papillion Police took Mendoza to the Sarpy County Correctional Center and detained him for four days, because they thought he might be undocumented. When his wife and children came to the jail to present Ramon’s social security card, certificate of citizenship and US passport, they were turned away. Sarpy County officials told Ramon he’d be “given ten years in federal prison and then be deported back to Mexico.” Eventually, Ramon was released but he has since been diagnosed with PTSD as a result of the experience. The case is ongoing.
“Local taxpayers get the bill when a county grants an ICE detainer,” said ACLU of Nebraska Legal Director Amy Miller. “Our law enforcement agents have enough on their plates without having to deal with unfunded federal programs that violate people’s basic civil rights. You cannot be put in jail simply because the government wants to investigate you. We hope all Nebraska counties will follow the lead of our largest counties in adopting similar policies.”
Recently, several federal courts have made clear that detainer requests are non-binding and that local authorities, not ICE, are ultimately liable for violations of constitutional rights that result from honoring immigration detainer requests. The letter from the ACLU and JFON made clear that the organizations are prepared to take legal action should a person in Nebraska custody be held unconstitutionally as a result of an ICE detainer request. The organizations also warned counties that unless they decline to honor any ICE detainer requests without judicial findings of probable cause or warrant, they expose themselves to unnecessary liability.
Read the letter from ACLU of Nebraska and Justice for Our Neighbors-Nebraska: aclunebraska.org/images/attachments/210_Douglas%20County%20ICE%20Detainer%20Letter%20(revised)%20ACLU%20logo.pdf
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