The SPLC and other immigrant and civil rights groups issued a joint report today describing the legal liabilities that local governments face when they honor requests from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency to hold people who have been arrested past the completion of their criminal custody, so that ICE agents can detain them.
The report details the illegal actions of the U.S. government’s repeated attempts to enlist local law enforcement authorities to arrest and detain people on behalf of ICE.
Assumption of Risk: Legal Liabilities for Local Governments that Choose to Enforce Federal Immigration Laws was written by attorneys from the SPLC, the National Immigrant Justice Center, the American Immigration Council, the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the National Immigration Law Center. The groups have successfully challenged these practices in courts across the country.
“Sheriffs should be forewarned, entering into arrangements with ICE to enforce immigration law will not protect them from liability for detaining individuals without probable cause of having committed a crime,” said Shalini Agarwal, managing attorney for the SPLC’s Florida office. “These arrangements create fear, and will have the perverse effect of damaging public safety by scaring away immigrant communities from contacting the police about actual criminal activity.”
ICE detainers have been at the center of high-profile clashes between the Trump administration and local and state governments that refuse to honor them, including retaliation threats from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Local and state police departments argue that transforming their officers into immigration agents undermines public safety. Today’s report goes much further, explaining the numerous ways in which detainers subject local governments to legal liability.
The report outlines the constitutional and legal framework governing ICE detainers, and places the detainer programs into historical context. It also describes the legally defective ways in which the Trump and Obama administrations have attempted to package these practices. Additionally, the report addresses the non-legal, moral and ethical costs that arise when local police take on federal immigration enforcement.