Sheriffs Fear Legal Liability Holding Inmates For ICE

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Adam Christianson, sheriff of Stanislaus County, Ca., near San Francisco, gives Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents unfettered access to his jails, where they interview inmates and scroll through computer databases. The information allows the agents to find and take custody of people they suspect of living in the country illegally before they are released from jail. There is a line he won’t cross, reports the Los Angeles Times. ICE officials routinely ask local jailers and state prison wardens to keep inmates behind bars for up to two days longer than they would otherwise be locked up. Christianson refuses to honor such “detainers.” None of the sheriffs in California’s 58 counties are willing to hold inmates past their release dates for ICE.

The refusal to comply has drawn fire from the Trump administration, which sees detainers as a key component to carrying out its aggressive plan to find and remove millions of people living in the country illegally. Last week, the Department of Homeland Security started issuing a weekly report that aims to identify and publicly shame law enforcement agencies that released people from custody despite an ICE detainer request. And U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions went a step further this week, promising to withhold federal funding from law enforcement departments that don’t get in line with ICE. Sheriffs said their defiance is not rooted in ethical or political opposition but legal concerns. Federal court rulings, including one in Oregon where a judge found that police violated a woman’s constitutional rights by keeping her in jail at ICE’s request, have left California’s law enforcement officials worrying that they could expose themselves to legal troubles for doing the same. The same is true throughout the U.S., where a majority of sheriff’s departments have stopped honoring ICE hold requests, according to the National Sheriffs’ Association.

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