Federal Judge's Ruling Casts Doubt on the Legality of Some ICE 'Detainers'

A Federal Judge in San Antonio has cast doubt on the legality of many Immigration and Customs Enforcement 'detainer' requests, and that could be a major boost for San Antonio and other Texas cities which are suing to overturn the new state law banning 'Sanctuary Cities,' News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

In a 19 page ruling, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia, who is also the judge who will consider the Sanctuary City case, says in same cases, ICE detainers are illegal, and a violation of the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments.

Attorney Nina Perales, who will be the lead counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund's lawsuit against the new Sanctuary City law, says the case may or may not be significant.

"Judge Garcia's decision in the detainer case does relate to the arguments that we will be making," Perales told News Radio 1200 WOAI.  "I don't think, though, that this indicates how he will rule because the SB 4 case is very complicated.

Attorney Lance Curtright, who represented the plaintiff in the detainer lawsuit, says the ruling is very significant.

"Because they require the county to detain a person without probable cause that they committed a criminal offense," Curtright said.  "Deportation proceedings are civil, and not criminal charges."

In Judge Garcia's ruling, he held that the rights of a foreign born national named Julio Trujillo Santoyo were violated because he was held in the Bexar County Jail for seventy days on an ICE detainer request, even though the misdemeanor assault charge that landed him in the jail in the first place had been dropped.

Santoyo argued that the fact that Bexar County, under former Sheriff Susan Pamerleau, honored ICE detainer requests, his continued detention after the criminal charges were dismissed was illegal.

"I don't think you should ever be in jail for even a minute if you don't have charges lodged against you, something the judge found troubling as well," Curtwright said.

Judge Garcia wrote in his opinion: "Evidence not in dispute shows that such a prolonged detention based on an ICE detainer request would be contrary to both the County's practice regarding ICE detainer requests and the detainer request itself."

Perales says that is the significant portion of the ruling that might help the cities defeat the law banning Sanctuary Cities.

"He has recognized where ICE detainers can potentially run afoul of the Constitution," she said

.Although debate in the Texas law centered on several issues, including whether local police should be allowed to question a 'detained' person about immigration status, and whether Sanctuary policies make it easier for local police to investigate crimes, at the heart of the Sanctuary City case is whether a jurisidiction honors ICE detainer requests.

A 'detainer' is a request by Immigration officials for a jurisdiction to continue to hold a person in custody, usually for no more than 48 hours, so that person can be handed over to ICE for potential deportation.

Judge Garcia also ruled that ICE detainers themselves may be unconstitutional, because they require that individuals be held in custody without the agency that is holding them making any 'independent assessment of whether the prolonged detention is supported by probable cause that a crime has been committed, or whether the detainer otherwise complies with statutory guidelines."

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