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Meredith Curtis Goode, media@aclu-md.org, 443-310-9946

December 19, 2018

Policy of Jailing Individuals Beyond Time of Release for Civil Immigration Matters Violates the Rights of Immigrants and Puts County at Financial Risk

TAKOMA PARK – Speaking out strongly against a recently revised policy in Montgomery County that violates immigrants’ rights and puts the County at risk of legal liability, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland, CASA, and allied groups have complained to the Montgomery County Sherriff’s Office (MCSO) detailing how it is both unconstitutional and bad policy to hold individuals for three hours or more beyond their time of release to offer the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) an opportunity to capture them. In a letter, the groups demand that MCSO immediately rescind this policy and end the practice of jailing people in violation of the protections guaranteed by our Constitution.

“There is no just rationalization for keeping an individual after being released by a judge – so that ICE agents can come in and detain them,” said CASA Executive Director Gustavo Torres. “We are against this type of conduct which risks Fourth Amendment and Due Process violations.”
 
In August, MCSO revised its policy concerning detention of individuals being released after court proceedings or on completion of a sentence, but who are subject of a civil ICE immigration “detainer” – which are not criminal warrants. The new policy authorizes the Sheriff’s Office to jail individuals for three hours, or more with a supervisor’s approval, when they are otherwise free to go, offering ICE time to place the individual into custody. Even worse, the policy allows the Sheriff ‘s Office to contact ICE urging ICE agents to place these people into federal custody. Numerous federal courts have ruled that this is unconstitutional.
 
“We must remember that the constitutional protections of due process apply to everyone in the United States,” said Nick Steiner, Equal Justice Works Immigrants' Rights Fellow at the ACLU. “A blanket policy whereby local officials do ICE’s bidding is indefensible and in a county with nearly 40 percent of the state’s immigrant population, rounding up immigrants for no justifiable purpose is appalling.”
 
When an individual has been ordered released by a judge –- because charges were dropped, the individual posted bail, is released on recognizance, or released for any other reason – there is no constitutionally permissible justification to continue holding that person for ICE, unless probable cause of a crime exists. Jailing people beyond their state-mandated release risks Fourth Amendment and Due Process violations, and leaves the Sheriff’s Office vulnerable to litigation over those constitutional violations. 
 
Municipalities have been held liable for constitutional violations involving the enforcement of immigration detainer requests, especially when they were enforced without ICE’s express authorization. Detainer requests are voluntary, and therefore monetary liability falls on the locality, not the federal government. Despite recent efforts by the Trump Administration to coerce localities and local law enforcement agencies to enforce detainer requests, federal courts have blocked those attempts. 

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