A U.S. District Judge in Los Angeles ruled this week that a crucial element in President Trump’s immigration crackdown is unconstitutional, according to an article in The Los Angeles Times.
Judge Andre Birotte Jr. found that police departments that detain inmates at the behest of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau (ICE) are violating the constitutional rights of the detainees. The order comes in a case involving the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department prior to the state’s, county’s, and city’s decisions to become sanctuary sites.
“The LASD officers have no authority to arrest individuals for civil immigration offenses, and thus, detaining individuals beyond their date for release violated the individuals’ Fourth Amendment rights,” Birotte wrote.
While the decision will have little immediate effect in California where none of the state’s 58 sheriff’s departments are currently cooperating with ICE, the decision may help judges assess the constitutionality of the practice in other states where local law enforcement continues to honor ICE requests for extended detention.
“This is a significant ruling, especially considering the national debate around immigration and the efforts of the Trump administration to strong-arm localities to honor immigration detainers,” said Jennie Pasquarella, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, one of several groups involved in the lawsuit. “Here is yet another court saying that any police department that does go along with detainer requests can be held liable.”
According to The LA Times, the ruling will affect some immigration detainee cases outside of California since it voids any outstanding detainer requests that were issued by ICE officials headquartered in Southern California’s Orange County where detainer requests for dozens of states were processed.
Despite the fact that local law enforcement agencies have already ceased the actions banned by the judge’s ruling, immigrant’s rights advocates hailed the decision as a much needed enforcement of justice.
“For years, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department … callously denied immigrants constitutional protections that universally apply to all other jail detainees — unjustifiably holding them without cause as prisoners,” said Lindsay Battles, one of the attorneys involved in the case. “This decision holds law enforcement agencies accountable for their anti-immigrant abuse of their authority.”
Judge Birotte’s order will affect an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 people who were improperly held in L.A. County jails on ICE detainers between 2010 and 2014. These former detainees may now be entitled to monetary damages as a result of their illegal detention.