Ruling Spurs Counties to Stop Holding Immigrants for Feds

Statue of Justice

A recent federal court ruling in Oregon has spurred Washington counties to stop holding immigrants in their jail past the time they are eligible for release. The court found that detainer requests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are not mandatory, and sheriffs could be sued for damages for violating an individual’s constitutional rights by continuing to hold the person pursuant to a detention request.

The ACLU-WA and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project have pressed county sheriffs around the state to change their policies to protect constitutional rights. In a joint letter to 39 sheriffs, we pointed out that the court ruling (in Miranda-Olivares v. Clackamas County) was based on 4th Amendment principles that apply in Washington state.

As the letter explained, the ruling “makes clear that individuals cannot be held in custody under ICE detainers unless there has been an independent judicial finding of probable cause to justify detention that extends beyond the custody necessary for a criminal case.” 

Last year, after three years of advocacy by the ACLU-WA and allies, King County changed its policy to no longer hold for ICE immigrants arrested for low-level crimes.  A study by a UW researcher last year found that the county’s practices extended time in jail for individuals by nearly 30 days and disproportionately impacts Latinos.

As of press time, 19 counties had announced they would no longer hold immigrants eligible for release simply because ICE has requested them to do so.