County Sheriffs Refuse to Comply with ICE Holds

George Lavender

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Alameda, Calif., became the latest county to announce that it would no longer keep undocumented immigrants in jail at the request of immigration authorities alone. Wednesday’s announcement by the sheriff’s department means Alameda will no longer comply with detainers issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Announcing the change, Sheriff’s Capt. Colby Staysa ordered anyone currently in jail solely because of an immigration hold” to be released immediately. 

Alameda follows neighboring Contra Costa county, as well as counties in Washington, Colorado, and Oregon, who have decided not to comply with so-called ICE detainers” after a federal judge in Oregon ruled that Clackamas County had violated a detainee’s Fourth Amendment rights by holding her without probable cause. That came on top of an earlier decision by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals which ruled that law enforcement agencies are not required to honor the detainers, and that the decision to do so is voluntary.

Sgt. JD Nelson with the Alameda County Sheriffs Office told The Prison Complex if a judge gives a decision then it becomes case law then you’re supposed to abide by that case law.” The decision will not affect undocumented immigrants who also face criminal charges if you have another charge you’re still going to stay in jail.”

Local law enforcement’s cooperation in holding suspected undocumented immigrants in jail for possible deportation, has been a key feature of ICE’s Secure Communities” program. The controversial program has played a significant part in the large increase in deportations, and has faced widespread opposition from immigrant rights organizations and civil liberties groups. On the same day Alameda issued its memo ending compliance with ICE holds, Mayor Joseph Curtatone, of Somerville, Mass. announced he would issue an executive order to do the same.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will continue to work cooperatively with law enforcement partners throughout California as the agency seeks to enforce its priorities through the identification and removal of convicted criminals and others who are public safety threats.”

Sgt. Nelson said his department had not received any response from ICE to their announcement, because it’s not like we had a conversation with them saying this is what we decided to do, this was decided by the courts.”

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George Lavender is an award-winning radio and print journalist based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @GeorgeLavender.
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