Immigrant advocates rejoiced last week as a wave of counties said they would no longer comply with ICE holds (also called detainers) issued under the "Secure Communities" (S-Comm) program. Sheriffs in 31 counties in Oregon, 10 in Colorado and at least 4 in Washington announced the policy shift, citing concerns that ICE holds violate Constitutional rights and expose local governments to legal liability.
The Washington Post reported on April 29 that this development comes after recent court decisions in Oregon and Pennsylvania that found ICE holds are requests, not commands, and that local law enforcement is not required to honor them. Consequently, sheriffs and counties could be liable for any constitutional violations resulting from local law enforcement holding a person for ICE.
Immigrant advocates have long argued that detainers issued under the S-Comm program from ICE are merely requests, and that honoring ICE detainers are violations of due process.
Grassroots Leadership has been part of an on-going campaign to stop compliance with S-Comm and ICE holds in Travis County, Texas. The question on the minds of immigrants and advocates in Texas is: When will local governments in the Lone Star State join this quickly growing list?
In Walla Walla County, Washington, Sheriff John Turner said that the new policy "significantly reduces the possibility that Walla Walla County will get sued for similar conduct that got Clackamas County (in Oregon) sued.”
Boulder County, Colorado Sheriff Joe Pelle shared an email with the Associated Press, claiming that all everyone detained under ICE holds will be released once any federal and state charges are settled, calling the Oregon decision a "game changer." Pelle continued, saying that attorneys advised him that his office has “potential civil exposure, and no state statutory authority for holding people on detainers.”
Mark Silverstein, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, sent a letter to every Colorado county sheriff explaining that local law enforcement does not have the authority to enforce immigration laws and doing so puts counties at risk in court:
“There’s no statutory authority to make an arrest because somebody is suspected of being present in the country in violation of the immigration laws... [ICE is requesting the sheriff] “to do something that he has no authority under Colorado law to do.”
The total number of counties and cities that have rejected or limited local cooperation with ICE is now more than 70.