An ongoing dispute in immigration law, which has taken on new urgency since January, involves the question of whether local authorities are obligated to cooperate with federal officials on immigration enforcement. Numerous judges have ruled that the Constitution prohibits the federal government from requiring local officials to cooperate. A recent court ruling held that a local policy requiring cooperation with federal officials is unconstitutional. LaCroix v. Junior, Nos. F17-376, F17-1770, order (Fla. 11th Jud. Cir., Mar. 3, 2017). While Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and others often claim that this issue only pertains to undocumented immigrants, it actually has the potential to affect all immigrants, from people here on tourist visas to permanent residents with green cards, and many citizens as well.
The term “sanctuary cities” refers—often pejoratively—to local jurisdictions that do not cooperate with ICE to some extent. ICE often places “detainers” on individuals in local custody when it suspects them of immigration violations. The detainer directs local officials to hold the person until ICE can take custody of them, even if the person is otherwise entitled to release. Many cities and counties have stated that they will not detain people solely based on a detainer, unless ICE also presents a warrant or court order. Reasons cited by local officials include due process concerns regarding warrantless detainer requests and Tenth Amendment concerns relating to the different roles of the federal and local governments.
Legislative and executive actions have sought to penalize “sanctuary cities.” Recent court decisions have directly addressed this issue, and the U.S. Supreme Court has more broadly limited federal authority to direct local officials. In Printz v. United States, 521 U.S. 898 (1997), the court ruled that requiring local officials to perform duties reserved to the federal government—in that case, enforcing provisions of the federal Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act—violates the Tenth Amendment. The Constitution expressly reserves authority over immigration to the federal government, U.S. Const. Art. I § 8, cl. 4, so Printz would certainly seem to apply to federal efforts to direct local officials.
In late January 2017, the mayor of Miami, Florida ordered city officials to cooperate with ICE on detainers and other matters. Reportedly, the mayor acted out of concern over losing more than $300 million in federal funding—which brings up other legal issues best left for another post. The Miami-Dade County Commission voted to follow suit several weeks later, setting the stage for the habeas corpus petition in LaCroix.
The petitioner is a Haitian national who obtained temporary protected status after the 2010 earthquake and therefore legally resides in the U.S. He was scheduled for release after an arrest for allegedly driving with a suspended license, but the jail held him for an additional 28 hours after receiving an ICE detainer.
In its ruling, the court noted that the petitioner “is charged with no crime and is serving no sentence,” but he was still “incarcerated…with no prospect of imminent release” when he filed his petition. LaCroix, order at 1. In ordering the petitioner’s release and finding the county’s policy unconstitutional, the court cited Printz and noted that “[t]he case at bar is actually easier than Printz,” since immigration is solely subject to federal jurisdiction under the Constitution. Id. at 6.
Immigration lawyer Samuel C. Berger represents immigrants and prospective immigrants in Northern New Jersey and New York City, as well as their family members and their employers. To schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our knowledgeable and experienced team, contact us today online, at (201) 587-1500, or at (212) 380-8117.
More Blog Posts:
DACA Recipient Challenges Detention by Immigration Authorities, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, March 9, 2017
New Presidential Administration Issues Multiple Executive Orders Affecting Immigration, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, February 9, 2017
New Jersey Cities Continue to Resist Federal Demands to Assist in Immigration Enforcement, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, November 24, 2016
Photo credit: User:NuclearWarfare [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.