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Immigrant Advocates, Politicians Call for Cities to Reject Federal Immigration Detainers

CBP_UH-60_street.jpgThe federal government introduced the “Secure Communities” (S-Comm) program in 2008 as a means of focusing immigration enforcement on individuals deemed a priority for deportation. The program began in a small number of local jurisdictions and has since expanded to cover most of the country. Federal immigration authorities have long used “immigration detainers,” requests to local law enforcement to continue to hold a detainee beyond the point when he or she would normally be released, as part of their enforcement procedures. This procedure became more official under S-Comm, with holds of at least 48 hours, not counting weekends. Several court rulings have held that these detainers are not binding on local law enforcement, and multiple cities have enacted laws limiting cooperation with the program. Local law enforcement in many areas has been slow, however, to respond to the backlash against S-Comm, if they respond at all.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) describes these high-priority categories as “criminal aliens, those who pose a threat to public safety, and repeat immigration violations.” These designations are made in the sole discretion of ICE, and detainers under S-Comm are not subject to challenge by a detainee. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Galarza v. Szalczyk, 745 F.3d 634 (3rd Cir. 2014), that mandatory immigration detainers violate the Tenth Amendment’s prohibition on commandeering state or local law enforcement. A federal judge in Oregon ruled that a county violated a woman’s Fourth Amendment rights by holding her pursuant to an immigration detainer after she was eligible for release on bail. Miranda-Olivares v. Clackamas Co., No. 3:12-cv-02317, opinion (D. Ore., Apr. 11, 2014).

Numerous U.S. cities have enacted laws or policies limiting cooperation with ICE regarding immigration detainers. The New York City Council enacted Local Law 62 in November 2011, which added a new section to the city’s Administrative Code stating that police should not detain a person beyond the time that he or she would otherwise be released, nor should they notify ICE of the person’s release, except under specified circumstances. See N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 9-131. The law listed numerous exceptions, including conviction of any felony or misdemeanor, pending criminal charges, outstanding warrants, and gang membership.

The New York City Council passed another law in February 2013 that somewhat limited the rather broad scope of Local Law 62, but the list of exceptions to the city’s non-cooperation with immigration detainers is still quite large. Immigrant advocates have called on Mayor Bill De Blasio to do more to protect New York City residents’ rights against ICE detainers.

Other jurisdictions have seen disputes develop regarding local law enforcement’s role in S-Comm. City officials in Austin, Texas, including the city’s police chief, have called for an end to cooperation with S-Comm, which has reportedly resulted in a rate of 19 deportations per week from the area. The police chief warns that the program erodes trust between immigrants and police, which harms the entire community. The county sheriff, who runs the jails and is not bound by actions of the City Council, has stated that he will continue to comply with S-Comm.

Immigration attorney Samuel C. Berger represents immigrants currently living in New York and New Jersey, individuals seeking to immigrate to the United States, family members who wish to bring a loved one here, and employers who want to hire talent from abroad. We help immigrants obtain visas and green cards, and we advise families and businesses on how to petition for immigrants to come to the U.S. To schedule a confidential consultation to see how we can help you, please contact us today online or at (212) 380-8117.

More Blog Posts:

Federal Government Allows Extension of DACA Status, Amid Efforts to Roll Back the Program, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, August 6, 2014
Immigration Detainers are Not Binding on Local Law Enforcement, According to Third Circuit Court of Appeals, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, March 5, 2014
New White House Immigration Policy Offers Opportunities and Risks for Young Undocumented Immigrants, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, June 21, 2012
Photo credit: By James R. Tourtellotte, CBP, U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.