Revised Policy Ends Three-Hour Detention of Immigrants for ICE
TAKOMA PARK – In a striking victory for the rights of immigrants in Montgomery County, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office (MSCO)’s revised their policy on immigrant detention to explicitly require a judicial warrant if the Sheriff’s Office seeks to lawfully hold individuals beyond their state-mandated release. The new policy recognizes that simply being undocumented is not a criminal offense and not a legitimate reason to jail individuals so that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) may seize them.
“The Sherriff’s decision not to imprison individuals past their release time is a victory for many immigrants,” said Julio Murillo-Khadjibaeva, CASA's Government & Strategic Relations Specialist. “Thanks to the work of dedicated advocates and community members, we are seeing a strong momentum to ensure that Montgomery County not only has a welcoming environment but that it has welcoming laws and policies. We will build upon this victory to ensure the passage of the Montgomery County Trust Act.”
In a letter sent in December, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland, CASA, and allied groups demanded that MCSO immediately rescind a recently adopted policy mandating detention of individuals subject to immigration detainers, who otherwise would have been released because they were acquitted, their charges were dropped, they posted bail, or any other reason that an individual would be released from Maryland State custody. The Sheriff’s policy required jailing these immigrants for at least three hours, even though they had no legal authority to do so, in order to give ICE time to lock up the individual in immigration detention. Numerous state and federal courts across the country have ruled that local law enforcement cannot constitutionally hold or detain people solely on immigration matters, and this policy not only authorized, but required the Sheriff’s Office to carry out this unconstitutional behavior.
“We applaud this new policy from the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office because it sets a much stronger standard for the treatment of immigrants that protects their constitutional right to due process,” said Nick Steiner, Equal Justice Works Immigrants' Rights Fellow at the ACLU. “We all must stand against law enforcement policies that allow local officials to do ICE’s bidding and participate in the rounding up of immigrants for no justifiable purpose. Now we continue forward with a Trust Act to ensure protections for Montgomery County immigrants from other County agencies’ policy changes.”
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 jailing 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. If they did not revise this policy, the Sheriff’s Office would have been 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.