Sheriffs around the U.S. are rejecting the Obama administration policy of holding noncitizens who are accused or convicted of crimes for extra time, which for years has enabled federal officials to begin deportation proceedings for thousands of immigrants, the New York Times reports. The decisions are limiting the administration's ability to enforce immigration laws and could significantly decrease the number of immigrants deported each year. This spring, a federal judge in Oregon ruled that a sheriff had violated an immigrant woman's civil rights by holding her in the county jail solely at the request of federal agents. Sheriffs across the state started refusing to honor the policy, which asks them to hold undocumented inmates without probable cause for a criminal violation, a process known as a detainer.
Dozens of sheriffs are now releasing noncitizen offenders who have served their time rather than holding them longer on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security. For years, the administration has asked them to hold such people for up to 48 hours after they were scheduled for release, giving Immigration and Customs Enforcement extra time to investigate whether they could be deported for immigration violations. Sheriffs, many in California, and some in Minnesota, Kansas and Washington, say the court decision in Oregon forces their hand, because they cannot risk doing something that a federal magistrate judge has found unconstitutional. “When a judge says something is in violation of the Fourth Amendment, I am not going to just keep doing it,” said Sheriff William Gore of San Diego. “If they want to take someone into federal custody, they can decide to do that, but I am not going to keep holding somebody because they ask me to, and nothing more than that.”