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Indianapolis looks to end compliance with immigration detainer requests

June 11, 2017 | Indianapolis Star | Link to Article

The Marion County Sheriff's Office plans to drastically reduce its compliance with federal immigration detainer requests.

On Monday, attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana and the city of Indianapolis filed a stipulated judgment (or settlement) and injunction to end the practice of holding people in jail without probable cause on behalf of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The agreement is expected to be signed by U.S. District Court Judge Sarah Evans Barker.

► More: Marion County Sheriff faces pressure to stop detaining immigrants

An ICE detainer is a request of local police to hold people in jail beyond the time when they otherwise should be released – generally a 48-hour period – so the immigration agency can take them into custody. The requests are not signed by a judge and do not require probable cause that a possible illegal immigrant has committed a crime.

Supporters of the settlement say it will ensure constitutional rights to residents; critics say it will make detaining and deporting illegal immigrants more difficult. 

► More: Sheriff's Office under more scrutiny for release times

The decision comes after the ACLU of Indiana filed a lawsuit in September over the department's compliance with ICE detainer policies. The Marion County Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff John Layton are defendants in the suit. City officials declined to comment.

From left, Maria Ibrra, Citalaly Sanchez, 10, and Eduardo

From left, Maria Ibrra, Citalaly Sanchez, 10, and Eduardo Sanchez, pose together outside their far east side home, Indianapolis, Tuesday, May 23, 2017. Eduardo was taken into U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention for a traffic violation several years ago, and now fears he and his wife could be deported.  (Photo: Jenna Watson/IndyStar)

In the case, Antonio Lopez-Aguilar was detained as he appeared at the Marion County Traffic Court to answer for a misdemeanor charge that he had operated an automobile without a license.

Once the hearing concluded — without any requirement that he serve jail time for that charge — he was informed by a sergeant that he was being taken into custody until he could be transferred to the custody of ICE.

The ACLU alleges in court documents that ICE arrested and held Lopez-Aguilar without cause, in violation of the Fourth Amendment. 

White crosses with names are gathered at Christ Cathedral,

White crosses with names are gathered at Christ Cathedral, during a vigil and march from the City Market to Christ Cathedral on Monument Circle, calling on city and county law enforcement to stop supporting unlawful detentions of undocumented immigrants by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Thursday, June 15, 2017. People wrote names, on the paper crosses, of people who have been impacted by deportation. The crosses were gathered and placed on the altar, during prayer.  (Photo: Kelly Wilkinson/IndyStar)

After months of litigation, protests throughout the city and media coverage of the practice, the parties filed the settlement agreement. 

► More: Hoosiers march against Sheriff's Department ICE detainer policy

The stipulated agreement filed Monday states that seizures based solely on detention requests from ICE (or removal orders from an immigration court) violate the Fourth Amendment, "unless ICE supplies probable cause that the individual to be detained has committed a criminal offense," court documents state.

"It is therefore ordered that the Marion County Sheriff’s Department and John Layton, in his official capacity as the Marion County Sheriff, are permanently enjoinedfrom seizing or detaining any person based solely on detention requests from ICE," the court documents state, unless a warrant signed by a judge supplies probable cause that the suspect committed a criminal offense.

► More: Young nun fights for justice for immigrants and the poor in Indy

In the 100 days since President Donald Trump signed executive orders regarding immigration enforcement priorities, ICE has arrested more than 41,000 individuals nationally who are either known or suspected of being in the country illegally. This reflects an increase of 37.6 percent over the same period in 2016.

Locally, immigration jailings shot up 240 percent since the beginning of Trump's presidency. From January to May, 277 people were detained by the police department in Marion County. 

Cities across the country, including Indianapolis, are having to grapple with whether or not to continue the practice of complying with ICE detainment requests. Many question whether local jurisdictions should continue to bear the legal expense of fighting constitutional challenges to federal policies over which they have no control.

According to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, the organization has already cooperated in the detention of 1,229 people between 2014 and 2017.

Some cities have publicly declared that they would not honor ICE requests for a variety of reasons, but in large part because they want to avoid the costs of litigating constitutional claims, said William Stock, head of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

The Trump administration has attempted to publicly shame such jurisdictions.

In March, ICE began releasing lists of jurisdictions and jails that do not comply with detainer requests, commonly described as "sanctuary jurisdictions."

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett has stopped short of declaring Indianapolis a sanctuary city.