Over Two Dozen Civil Rights and Legal Groups Demand Florida Counties Halt Enforcement of Unconstitutional Immigration Detainers

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
July 28, 2014 12:00 am

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"ICE detainers" have illegally imprisoned countless individuals, opening enforcing agencies to liability; Letters sent to 62 sheriffs urge Florida counties to join the hundreds of places – including Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties – that have stopped enforcing the unconstitutional holds.

July 28, 2014

CONTACT: 212-549-2666, media@aclu.org

MIAMI, FL A coalition of civil rights, immigrants’ rights, religious and legal groups has sent letters to officials in 62 Florida counties calling for an end to local law enforcement agencies detaining people for alleged civil immigration violations at the request of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The letters and attached legal memoranda explain that requests for "ICE detainers" or "ICE holds" are not legally binding and that the detentions threaten community safety and raise serious constitutional problems that could open enforcing agencies up to significant legal liability.

"ICE detainers violate the basic principle that the government cannot put someone in jail without due process," stated ACLU of Florida staff attorney Shalini Goel Agarwal. "Multiple federal courts have ruled that detentions based on ICE detainers violate people’s constitutional rights, and many cities and counties are rightly opting out of them to avoid liability. We’re asking every county in the state to make the smart decision to discontinue their entanglement with ICE."

An ICE detainer is a request from ICE that a local jail or other law enforcement agency detain an individual for an additional 48 hours after his or her release date, in order to provide ICE agents time to decide whether to take the individual into federal custody and begin formal deportation proceedings. In counties where law enforcement agencies honor ICE holds, individuals are being held even when they have been cleared of all criminal charges against them.

As the letter explains, detainers have resulted in the illegal imprisonment of countless individuals—including U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and Latinos in particular—without any charges pending, sometimes for days or weeks after they should have been released from custody.
The letter calls on county sheriffs to join the two states and more than 150 localities that have chosen to limit or end the practice of keeping individuals in jails on ICE detainers based on constitutional and other concerns.

In December 2013, the Miami-Dade County Commission passed a resolution to implement a policy ending enforcement of ICE detainers. In recent weeks, the Broward County Sheriff’s office announced that it will not enforce ICE detainers unless there is a finding of probable cause made by a U.S. district court or magistrate judge. The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office adopted a similar policy, although it is unclear whether the County will continue to honor ICE detainers based on orders from immigration judges, who are administrative judges in the executive branch (the same branch of government charged with prosecuting deportations), or only from federal judges in the judicial branch.

"The writing is on the wall," said Rebecca Sharpless, Director of the Immigration Clinic at the University of Miami School of Law. "Detaining people for federal immigration authorities not only undermines community trust but it is expensive and unlawful. We can expect the developments in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties to trigger a domino effect across the state."

"We celebrate the fact that local law enforcement, especially Broward Sheriff's Office, are fully acknowledging their mission to protect the rights of all Floridians, and declining to participate in a potentially dangerous federal government program that has proven to be costly for taxpayers and ineffective for crime prevention," stated Maria Rodriguez, Executive Director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition. "Detaining and deporting hardworking Floridians and separating families does not benefit anyone and does not protect our communities. Unfortunately, other officials around the state, such as the Collier County Sheriff and Florida's Chief Financial Officer Atwater, are not getting the memo and since last week are turning over dozens of fruit workers to ICE."

From the legal memorandum attached to the letter:
"When your office chooses to comply with ICE detainers, you risk undermining community trust by transforming local law enforcement, in the eyes of the community, into proxy immigration enforcers. This creates a disincentive to report crimes and undermines the goodwill towards officers that we know your office seeks to foster with immigrant communities. In contrast, by drawing clear lines to avoid the entanglement of your officers with federal civil immigration enforcement, you can build relationships with the community and make everyone safer.

"For all of the legal, fiscal, and public safety reasons outlined in this letter, we urge you to join the growing number of localities around the country that no longer detain people based on ICE detainer requests. We believe that only a policy that requires a judicial finding of probable cause by a federal, not an administrative, judge in order to deprive someone of their liberty will meet the minimum requirements of the Constitution."

A copy of one of the letters is available here:

A copy of the legal memorandum attached to the letter is available here:

More information about ICE detainers is available here:

The letter is signed by representatives from:

  • American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida;
  • American Friends Services Committee, Miami;
  • American Immigration Lawyers Association, Central Florida Chapter;
  • American Immigration Lawyers Association, South Florida Chapter;
  • Americans for Immigrant Justice;
  • Catholic Charities Legal Services, Archdiocese of Miami;
  • Faith in Florida;
  • Farmworker Association of Florida, Inc.;
  • Florida Coastal School of Law;
  • Florida Immigrant Coaltion;
  • Friends of Miami-Dade Detainees;
  • Gainesville Interfaith Alliance for Immigrant Justice;
  • Get Equal;
  • Human Rights Defense Center;
  • Immigration Clinic, St. Thomas University School of Law;
  • Immigration Clinic, University of Miami School of Law;
  • Justicia Now;
  • Kate Aschenbrenner, Assistant Professor, Immigration Clinic, Barry University School of Law;
  • Kurzban, Kurzban, Weinger, Tetzeli & Pratt, P.A.;
  • LatinoJustice;
  • League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC);
  • Levanta La Voz;
  • Mi Familia Vota;
  • NLG South Florida Chapter;
  • One Miami;
  • SEIU Florida;
  • United We Dream Tampa Bay;
  • Voz y Acción de Puerto Rico;
  • Young American Dreamers;
  • Youth and Young Adult Network of the National Farm Worker Ministry.

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