Murkiness surrounding national immigration policy is causing local violations of imprisoned immigrants’ Fourth Amendment rights, say many advocates and attorneys. In recent weeks, advocates say, undocumented immigrants in Ohio’s Hamilton and Butler counties were held 48 hours longer than U.S. citizens for the same charge, allowing them to be seized by federal officers and put into deportation proceedings, reports the Cincinnati Enquirer. Immigrants–even those who entered the country illegally–are protected against illegal search and seizure, meaning they can’t be held beyond the time they are entitled to release.
At issue are detainers issued by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which ask local jails to hold undocumented prisoners for 48 additional hours beyond U.S. citizens’ release for the same offense. In Hamilton County, where the sheriff’s department operates the Justice Center, immigration advocates met for more than two hours last week with Sheriff Jim Neil. Some members of the local Immigrant Dignity Coalition say the department has been breaking its own carefully crafted policy by cooperating with ICE in holding immigrant prisoners. Immigration attorney Charleston Wang, attended the meeting and said coalition members were told that the sheriff’s department would make sure its command staff and rank-and-file officers would receive training on the policy. “There may be instances where the policy was exceeded and not followed,” Wang said. Federal courts in California, Illinois and Texas and a state court in Massachusettes have ruled against the use of ICE detainers on grounds of Fourth Amendment violations. They are administrative warrants, judges have ruled, and lack the necessary authority of a warrant issued by a judge or magistrate.