St, Paul, Minn. (May 7, 2014) The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota on Wednesday sent letters to every county sheriff in Minnesota urging them to end compliance with immigration detainer requests as federal court decisions are piling up against the practice.
Courts have found that the requests are unconstitutional and local law enforcement may be held liable for money damages for complying with them.
“The growing spate of federal court decisions should serve as an important warning for local law enforcement throughout Minnesota,” said, Ian Bratlie, staff attorney with the ACLU of Minnesota. “Detaining people based on suspected civil immigration violations without probable cause not only wastes scarce local public safety resources and contradicts our sense of fairness — it violates the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”
Immigration detainers occur when an individual is arrested for any reason and booked into jail. The jails send booking information to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
ICE then singles out individuals based on things like being foreign-born or a fingerprint “hit” in an ICE database. Some jails also report individuals to ICE if they suspect they are noncitizens subject to detainers.
ICE then sends a detainer, which is a formal request to a local jail to notify ICE before they release somebody from custody, and to hold the person for up to 48 hours (not including weekends or holidays) after he or she would otherwise be released so that ICE can arrange to take over custody. If the county chooses to honor the request, they will detain the individual, sometimes for up to six days beyond when they should have been released.
In their letter, the ACLU-MN highlights that an ICE detainer is not a warrant; it is not approved by a judge. It does not mean that there has been a finding about the person’s immigration status; in fact many ICE detainers have been issued against US citizens. It does not even mean that ICE has probable cause to believe the person is deportable.
The letter goes on to say that “Minnesota sheriffs have no authority under Minnesota law to hold someone on an immigration detainer.” Minnesota law does not provide sheriffs any authority to deprive persons of liberty because the federal government suspects they may be subject to civil immigration enforcement proceedings.
“Local law enforcement’s top concerns should be community trust and public safety,” stated Charles Samuelson, Executive Director of the ACLU-MN. “Victims and witnesses of crimes should not fear calling the police, but that’s what happens when the community fears that contact with law enforcement can be the first step in a seamless transfer to jail and then to immigration proceedings.”