Sheriff ends immigrant detentions for federal government

Jail

DeKalb County will no longer hold immigrants in jail for the federal government without a warrant or other sufficient probable cause.

Sheriff Jeffrey Mann announced Dec. 4 that his office will stop honoring requests by the U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency to detain released DeKalb County Jail inmates.

ICE is an agency of the federal Department of Homeland Security, which enforces federal laws governing border control, customs, trade and immigration.

“ICE hold requests specifically seek further detention for up to 48 hours for individuals otherwise authorized to be released from custody so that ICE officials can check for federal immigration law violations,” according to a statement from the sheriff’s office.

“I requested and received a legal review of this practice,” Mann said. “The law does not allow us to hold anyone without probable cause. If our judicial system determines that an individual should no longer be held in custody, it is not in my authority to countermand that decision. We all benefit from a nation of laws that regulate the ways people can be detained, and we should be grateful that is the case.”

According to the statement from the sheriff’s office, some federal court decisions have ruled that detainer-based detention by state and local law enforcement agencies is a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
Earlier this year, residents complained about detentions during a few DeKalb County Board of Commissioners’ meetings.

“The problem is that basically ICE is using local law enforcement agencies to turn over anybody who comes into contact with the police to immigration,” said Eunice Cho, a staff attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center,” during an October interview.

“People are getting pulled over for traffic stops—a busted taillight [or] speeding—and once the person gets involved with the police, often it escalates to the point where they’re being held automatically, even if the person wasn’t charged or convicted or the person came to the police as a victim of a crime. If an ICE hold is made, then that person can…get turned over to ICE,” Cho said.

DeKalb County had nearly 5,200 ICE detainees between 2007 and 2013, according to a study released July 2014 by American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Georgia, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, National Day Laborer Organizing Network and Immigrant Rights Clinic at New York University Law School.

The sheriff’s announcement was welcomed by representatives of the Georgia #Not1More coalition of civil, immigration and legal rights groups concerned about the use of immigration detainers in Georgia.

“Rejecting ICE’s detainer requests makes all Georgians safer and brings DeKalb County policy in line with the Constitution,” said Adelina Nicholls of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights.

“We’re glad to see Sheriff Mann taking proactive measures to address the harm to both public safety and community trust in law enforcement that involvement in federal deportation efforts has caused,” Nicholls said. “We will continue to work with the sheriff to create a bright line between law enforcement and federal deportation efforts to protect our families and prevent ICE programs from violating anyone’s rights regardless of what new name the agency gives to its quota pursuits.” 

Paulina Helm-Hernandez of Southerners On New Ground (SONG) said, “SONG and the Georgia #Not1More coalition are heartened by this decision, and we hope that Sheriff Mann’s action on this reflects further commitment on behalf of the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department to work with immigrant communities and our allies post-implementation.

“We have directly experienced the harm inflicted on our communities by ICE, and with the recent political maneuvers at the federal level, it is increasingly important for our communities to remain vigilant and aware of how this implementation will happen in Georgia,” she said.

Mann’s decision will increase community trust in the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office, said Department, said Azadeh Shahshahani of the ACLU of Georgia.

“We commend Sheriff Mann for putting an end to the unconstitutional practice of prolonging individuals’ detention per ICE detainer requests,” Shahshahani said.

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