The need for a more distinct line between the role of local law enforcement and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents is becoming more and more apparent. Pressure from advocacy groups to more strictly define the role of local law enforcement as their duties relate to undocumented immigrants is garnering some hopeful results with Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Cook County, Il, and Newark, NJ passing legislation to significantly limit the reach of ICE.
A recent civil rights lawsuit in New Orleans has brought attention to the unconstitutional practice of “excessive and unlawful custody” local police forces have taken to assist ICE beyond their duty to prevent crime and punish criminals. The New York Times reports that New Orleans Sherriff Marlin Gusman complied with an ICE request to detain two undocumented immigrants until ICE could come and take them into custody. These two men were jailed at the time for minor offenses but were jailed for an additional 90+ days without a federal charge because of this ICE hold. The explicit limit for detaining someone for ICE is 48 hours – after which, the men should have been released. These men’s constitutional rights were clearly violated and in response to their case’s victory, New Orleans has opted to limit the role local law enforcement will play in future ICE detention cases.
California, recognizing this trend, is now considering a bill that would limit the role of local law enforcement in feeding inmates to ICE. Criminals charged for serious offenses such as felonies, would still be turned over for deportation, but others in jail for minor offenses would not be held on ICE’s behalf beyond the 48 hour maximum. I hope this legislation passes in California and I hope more legislation like this will surface soon in other states. Even an undocumented immigrant should not be detained for prolonged periods of time just because they are in the country without status if they are not criminals or if they only have minor offenses such as traffic offenses, which is most often the case. It’s a cruel and unusual punishment. Think about someone detained for90 days in jail for jaywalking. The punishment does not fit the crime.
We want local police officers to prioritize their efforts in a way that will make our communities safer and not to become an extension of ICE.