ACLU Applauds State's Adoption of New Immigration Detainer Policy

July 17, 2014 12:00 am

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PROVIDENCE, RI – The ACLU of Rhode Island today praised Governor Lincoln Chafee for adopting a policy that no longer authorizes holding individuals at the ACI on the basis of questionable immigration detainers.

The ACLU is presently in federal court on behalf of a Rhode Island resident, Ada Morales, who, despite being a U.S. citizen, was twice unlawfully held in jail by Rhode Island officials on the basis of erroneous immigration detainers. Five months ago, U.S. District Court Judge John J. McConnell, Jr. issued a ruling that found the practice of relying on such detainers to hold people in jail to be likely unconstitutional. In recognition of that decision, the Governor’s new policy stops the Department of Corrections from relying on detainers to hold people who otherwise should be released from the ACI.

Since Judge McConnell’s decision, other courts have issued similar rulings. Nationwide, over 130 jurisdictions across the country in the past few months have voluntarily adopted policies, like the new Rhode Island policy, of no longer honoring ICE detainers that are issued without judicial authorization.

Detainers are requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement to law enforcement officials to hold individuals who are in custody for another reason. The detainers are generally issued without any judicial oversight.

ACLU of RI executive director Steven Brown said today: “We are very pleased with the Governor’s decision. Rhode Island now joins dozens of jurisdictions across the country in protecting fundamental rights to due process and in preventing any more unfortunate incidents like the ones Ms. Morales has experienced.”

“We join in commending Governor Chafee for Rhode Island’s new policy,” said Kate Desormeau, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “A growing number of state and local governments are rightfully declining to allow themselves to become entangled with ICE’s indiscriminate detainer practices. This is because ICE detainers violate one of our most basic constitutional principles – that the government cannot put someone in jail without cause, simply because it wants to investigate you.”

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