Petition seeks to limit ICE

06/12/2014

A petition created by immigration rights advocates in Marin, which has already garnered 600 signatures and will be sent to the county this month, asks supervisors to pass an ordinance prohibiting local law enforcement from complying with detainer requests submitted by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Under a program called Secure Communities, created at the end of George W. Bush’s presidency and aggressively pushed during the Obama administration, ICE reviews fingerprints of arrested subjects and requests that law enforcement officers detain targeted individuals for 48 hours so that the agency may initiate deportation proceedings. Since 2008, 444 people in Marin have been deported as a result of detainers, according to the most recent data.

But last fall, the California state legislature restricted such holds. That legislation, the Trust Act, prohibits law enforcement agencies from complying with detainer requests unless a person was arrested for a serious felony for which a judge has found probable cause. 

“It’s not really the business of local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration law, [and] those detainers are not based on any due process,” said Tom Wilson, the executive director of the Canal Alliance, which penned the petition.

In a statement sent to the Light on Wednesday, Supervisor Steve Kinsey echoed that sentiment. “Establishing a fair and enforceable immigration policy is exclusively a federal matter. Yet, the federal government has failed to do so, resulting in sporadic and divisive practices that have sought to enlist local law enforcement into their deportation dragnet activities.”

Mr. Wilson said the new state law does not address the fundamental absence of due process in ICE holds, an argument bolstered by recent court rulings. A federal judge in Oregon held one county liable in April for violating the Fourteenth Amendment—the right to be free from unreasonable seizure—when it complied with a detainer request. The woman at the center of the case was otherwise cleared for release, but was deported after the county held her at ICE’s request. The ruling said the county had detained her without probable cause, since ICE had no warrant for her arrest, and the requests were just that—requests, not orders.

Since the ruling, at least a dozen counties in California have stopped complying with detainer requests. Last month, Sonoma County announced it would only detain individuals if ICE provided an arrest warrant.

“From our point of view, people’s rights are being trampled. But it also seems like the county should be worried about a lawsuit like what happened in Oregon,” Mr. Wilson said.

Marin County Sheriff Robert Doyle said supervisors lack the authority to prohibit compliance with detainer requests. If ICE doesn’t appeal the Oregon ruling, the sheriff’s office will amend its policy anyway—but it won’t stop it from cooperating. “ICE can call and ask, ‘When is he getting out?’ If they want to pick him up, they can.”