ACLU, CASA de Maryland Hail New Immigration Detainer Policy Issued by Governor O'Malley

Affiliate: ACLU of Maryland
August 29, 2014 12:00 am

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Baltimore, Md – Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland and CASA de Maryland hailed an announcement by Governor Martin O’Malley that the Baltimore City Detention Center, which is run by the state, will stop honoring most Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers. The reform significantly expands a policy enacted earlier this year, in light of Fourth Amendment and due process concerns raised by the groups.

“We are delighted that the Baltimore jail will stop detaining most people for ICE and hope that all Maryland counties follow the Governor’s lead in enacting similar policies in their jurisdictions,” said Sirine Shebaya, attorney directing the ACLU of Maryland’s immigrants’ rights advocacy. “We will continue to work with the Governor’s office to ensure that the policy is implemented in a way that truly respects the constitutional rights of all of Maryland’s residents.”

In June, the ACLU sent a letter to all county detention centers and the Baltimore City Detention Center notifying them of recent federal court decisions finding that detention on the sole basis of an immigration detainer request violates the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. Three federal courts have found that such detention raises constitutional concerns and that counties are liable in damages to the individuals they detain on that basis.

The Governor’s revised policy was issued in response to a request for advice from the Washington County’s Sheriff’s Office, which was sent after receiving the ACLU letter. The revised policy cites a Maryland Attorney General opinion that concludes that “if a local law enforcement officer does not have probable cause to extend custody over the subject of an ICE detainer, the continued detention likely constitutes a violation of the Fourth Amendment.”

“We applaud this news from the Governor recognizing the fundamental constitutional rights of all Marylanders,” said Gustavo Torres, Executive Director of CASA de Maryland. “Under Governor O’Malley’s leadership, Maryland has knit together a community and we look forward to counties across the state following suit.”

Immigration detainers are not judicial warrants and are issued without probable cause. Compliance with these detainers is not mandatory, yet virtually all Maryland counties detain immigrants with no greater offense than a traffic violation – effectively transforming their local law enforcement officials into proxy immigration agents. The Baltimore City jail joins hundreds of jurisdictions across the country in enacting this no-hold policy.

In 2013, the ACLU of Maryland released a report, Restoring Trust: How Immigration Detainers in Maryland Undermine Public Safety Through Unnecessary Enforcement, that describes how immigrants in Maryland are detained after they are eligible for release, in state and local facilities and at state and local expense, for the sole purpose of transferring them to federal immigration authorities even when they are picked up solely on traffic or other minor violations.

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