Half Of PA Counties No Longer Detain Jail Inmates For Immigration Checks


Half of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties have stopped honoring federal demands to detain county jail inmates beyond their eligible release dates, ending the practice of holding them solely to accommodate Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigations, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer, quoting a new study by Temple University. Last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled that Lehigh County was liable for damages for wrongfully detaining Ernesto Galarza, a U.S. citizen who, despite posting bail and telling his jailers he was born in New Jersey, was incarcerated for four days because of an ICE detainer.

The ruling led many Pennsylvania counties to adopt new practices. Of 52 counties that responded to a survey, 32 said they do not honor ICE detainers and 20 said they do. The counties that do not often cited the Galarza case as their rationale. In the counties that honor detainers, some officials said they believed it was their obligation. Others said they had modified their practices in ways they believed would reduce the likelihood of liability. An ICE hold, also known as a detainer, is a request to local law enforcement to hold a person suspected of being in the country illegally for up to 48 hours after the normal release date so that ICE can take custody of the person for possible deportation. By ending or limiting ICE holds, cities and counties in about 23 states and the District of Columbia have curtailed the local-federal collaboration on immigration enforcement that had been in place since about 2008.

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