TAKOMA PARK, MD - Amid a deportation frenzy in the U.S. even while immigration reform is being considered in Congress, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland today released a report on how state and local law enforcement are undermining public safety and wasting resources by enforcing immigration detainer requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Compliance with these detainers is not mandatory, yet the report details the startling rate at which many counties detain immigrants with no greater offense than a traffic violation - effectively transforming their local law enforcement officials into proxy immigration agents.
The ACLU report was launched at a press conference featuring State Sen. Victor Ramirez (D-Prince George's) and representatives from CASA de Maryland (CASA) and Service Employees International United (SEIU). Sen. Ramirez will be the lead Senate sponsor of the Maryland TRUST Act, a bill to restore community trust in local law enforcement by eliminating their entanglement in civil immigration enforcement efforts.
"More and more jurisdictions across the country are refusing to act as surrogates in the current deportation frenzy," said Sirine Shebaya, attorney directing the ACLU of Maryland's immigrants' rights advocacy. "The ACLU is calling on Maryland to join other states in deciding that complying with these requests is an inefficient use of our limited law enforcement resources and results only in ripping apart our communities."
The report, Restoring Trust: How Immigration Detainers in Maryland Undermine Public Safety Through Unnecessary Enforcement, describes how immigrants in Maryland are detained after they are eligible for release, in state and local facilities and at state and local expense, for the sole purpose of transferring them to federal immigration authorities even when they are picked up solely on traffic violations and even when they are not even charged with a civil immigration violation.
Key findings in the ACLU report:
- Most individuals held on an immigration detainer in Maryland are charged only with traffic violations or minor misdemeanor offenses.
- The overwhelming majority of people targeted by immigration detainers in Maryland are Latino.
- Immigration detainers undermine public safety and community trust in local law enforcement by entangling local authorities in federal immigration enforcement.
- Immigration detainers are purely voluntary requests that impose costs on local jurisdictions, and those costs are not reimbursed by the federal government.
- Several states, counties, and cities across the United States have taken steps to stop detaining individuals based solely on immigration detainer requests.
The report calls for statewide reform that would take back control of Maryland's entanglement in a broken immigration enforcement system and that would provide safeguards that address the significant due process and other constitutional concerns raised by immigration detainers. These safeguards would restore and help build community trust in law enforcement. And they would ensure that local jurisdictions are fully reimbursed for any costs associated with responding to immigration detainer requests.
Recently, the Maryland Attorney General's Office issued a letter of advice joining a number of other state and county attorneys in recognizing that compliance with immigration detainer requests is discretionary.