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Marion County Sheriff faces pressure to stop detaining immigrants

June 4, 2017 | Indianapolis Star | Link to Article


When 10-year-old Citalaly Sanchez hears her parents talking about being sent back to Mexico, tears slowly roll down her face. 

In the living room of her family’s home, a small, cozy apartment on the east side, the fourth-grader silently contemplates the prospect of being left alone in her birth country by herself.

Citalaly was born here and is a citizen, but her parents, Eduardo Sanchez and Maria Ibrra, are not. They are presently in the country illegally.

As they sit on each side of Citalaly, her parents talk about the gut-wrenching decision to leave their daughter in America in the event they are deported.

Citalaly hears her parents say President Donald Trump’s immigration policy, which has accelerated the number of deportations nationally, has them weighing the cost of living in America, preparing for the worst. 

In the 100 days since Trump signed executive orders regarding immigration enforcement priorities, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement hasarrested 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.

More: Unauthorized immigrants can sue for workplace injury, court rules 

Locally, ICE detainers have increased 240 percent since the beginning of Trump's presidency. From January to March, 142 people have been incarcerated through ICE detainer requests in Indianapolis, whereas at the same time last year, that number was 43 people, according to Marion County Sheriff’s Office data.

The detainers would not be possible without the assistance, both physically and financially, of the Marion County Sheriff's Office.

Attorneys, labors groups and the Indiana branch of the American Civil Liberties Union have filed suit against the Sheriff’s office over its compliance with ICE detainer requests. They say there are constitutional violations regarding the manner with which the jailing requests are made by the federal agency, specifically because detainer requests are made without warrants signed by a judge.

ICE officials say the detainer requests allow the agency time to determine whether or not a person is a flight risk or a potential danger to the American public, said Leticia Zamarripa, a spokeswoman with the national agency. It is the only American agency allowed to wield such arresting power.

State Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, said the challenges to local law enforcement's cooperation with federal enforcement of immigration laws are troublesome.

"There was one driving message that Trump ran his platform on, and that is to enforce immigration laws," Delph said. "It is one of the basic pillars of the Trumpadministration."

As pressure mounts from groups like the ACLU,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.

And families such as Citalaly’s are on edge as the debate continues to simmer.

Currently, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff John Layton are defending against an ACLU lawsuit, filed in September 2016, over the department's compliance with ICE detainer policies.

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.

Court documents state that ICE arrested and held Lopez-Aguilar without cause in an alleged violation of the Fourth Amendment. The suit is ongoing.

The Sheriff’s Office declined to speak about the matter. The office of Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett also did not respond to requests for comment.

Angela Joseph, an Indianapolis immigration attorney, questions why the county chooses to spend taxpayer dollars jailing immigrants and defending lawsuits when “it can simply err on the side of respecting individuals' constitutional rights.”

Delph argues that the cost of not enforcing immigration laws far surpasses the costs of litigation.

"There's a tremendous cost in health care, education and incarceration" ofimmigrants, Delph said. "There is a cost for not enforcing the law that I believe is greater than the cost of enforcing the law."

What is an ICE detainer request

Immigration detainers are not arrest warrants signed by a judge. They are written requests sent by ICE that ask local police to detain individuals beyond the time when they otherwise should be released – generally a 48-hour period – so the immigration agency can take the individuals into custody.

The cost of holding the person in jail is not reimbursed to cities and counties, said Emma Mahern, an Indianapolis immigration attorney who estimates that it costs roughly $100,000 in local funds yearly to detain individuals.

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

Detainers have formed the foundation for many immigration enforcement policies, including former President Barack Obama’s Priority Enforcement Program. The federal government has relied on local law enforcement agencies to assist in the detention of more than one million immigrants – including some U.S. citizens. Obama deported more immigrants than any other U.S. president: roughly 3 million people, according to Department of Homeland Security data.

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."

Cincinnati declared itself a sanctuary city in January even though the Justice Department announced it would cut off grant money to cities that do so.

More: Cincinnati defies Trump, becomes sanctuary city

Cincinnati’s Mayor John Cranley said he doesn’t think the Justice Department will make good on that promise. “I don't believe it," Cranley told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "I just don't believe it.”

Last February, Hogsett stopped short of declaring Indianapolis a sanctuary city.

Rather, he told about 1,500 people at a rally on the east side that the city welcomes all immigrants, refugees and marginalized people. Hogsett agreed to work with IndyCAN and the City-County Council to pass a resolution that Indianapolis will not comply with any law a court has determined to be discriminatory or unconstitutional. That resolution has yet to be presented publicly.

 The experience of ICE detainment

Back in his family's apartment, Eduardo Sanchez describes his own experience as an ICE detainee.

Sanchez went to court in November 2014 to attend a hearing on a traffic ticket. There, ICE agents were waiting tojail him.

Sanchez was arrested and immediately sent to an immigration detention center in Brazil, Indiana. A week later, he was sent to Wisconsin where Sanchez says he was not told why he was being detained.

 “It was a very scary time for us,” Ibrra said.

Eduardo Sanchez, Maria Ibrra and daughter Citalaly

Eduardo Sanchez, Maria Ibrra and daughter Citalaly Sanchez, in an old family picture seen in their far east side home, Indianapolis, Tuesday, May 23, 2017.  (Photo: Jenna Watson/IndyStar)

Sanchez was held for two weeks. During that time, his wife applied for a U-Visa application, a special visa set aside for crime victims. A year earlier, Sanchez had been held at gunpoint and his car was stolen. The incident would be his saving grace for staying in America.

But the fear of being deported still looms large in their lives.

As a candle bearing the face of Mother Mary flickered in the corner, in front of a statue of Jesus Christ on the cross, the couple explained that they fear leaving the house to go to the store. They fear the sound of police sirens. They fear unknown knocks at the door.

"We haven’t committed any crimes. We just want to live here and make a good life for our family,” Ibrra said.

Advocates say that the anxiety that immigrants harbor will make it more difficult for law enforcement to do their job.

"The resulting blurred lines between local police and immigration enforcement undermine community safety because immigrant communities often fear that reporting a crime will lead to deportation," according to areport compiled by the National Immigrant Justice Center, a Chicago-based group of immigration attorneys.

Delph sees things differently: "I don't care what non-citizens or unlawful residents have to think about anything when it comes to the government."

Challenges to existing policies

Increasingly, federal courts are questioning why ICE can arrest people without a warrant, when every other federal agency must obtain a warrant signed by a neutral arbiter.

Advocates such as Mahern say ICE’s use of detainers create additional due process concerns, because many people are held without any charges pending or probable cause violations. Courts around the country are increasingly ruling against ICE practices: 

Mahern says plainly, "It is possible that the Sheriff's office is violating individuals' constitutional rights.”

Most recently, the Hoosier Heartland Area Labor Federation issued a resolution against the Marion County Sheriff's Office regarding the office's compliance with ICE detainer requests. 

The resolution, entitled: "Protect Hoosier Immigrant Families," calls upon Layton to “end contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and to cease all unlawful actions against immigrants in Marion County."

The resolution also calls on the City-County Council of Indianapolis to pass a City of Inclusion resolution and Mayor Hogsett to sign the document should it come to his desk.

Layton sent a letter to the AFL-CIO, May 8, expressing his disappointment in the labor organization, adding, "The truth must be told. It is absolutely false that Marion County Sheriff's Office works with ICE to engage in unconstitutional conduct.”

He wrote that the matter would be resolved in the proper venue, the federal courts, adding: “Until it is resolved, I would ask the Labor Federation to not build walls, but to work together to build stronger bridges for all families in our state.”

Coming to America was worth it

Back on the east side, Ibrra said her family is biding time before a decision is made on Sanchez's U-Visa application. After weighing the costs of living in America, considering the risks they take in leaving the house every day, they still say their daughter's future is worth it.

Sanchez, a carpet installer, said he wants to make sure that Citalaly has better opportunities than he had growing up. He and Ibrra describe how they came to America – stuffed in the trunk of a car.

“It’s how we got to Indiana,” Sanchez said. Ibrra nods her head in an embarrassed quickness.

 Citalaly has never heard this story.

They stand on the patio in the back of their apartment, feeding a pair of parakeets that dance and coo in a cage on top of a makeshift table. Ibrra watches Citalaly play with the birds.

 "She has far more opportunities here,” Sanchez said. The family moves into the living room, where Citalaly pulls out her homework. Her dad helps with his daughter’s English work; they are both learning in those moments.

Eduardo Sanchez helps his daughter Citalaly Sanchez,Buy Photo

Eduardo Sanchez helps his daughter Citalaly Sanchez, 10, with homework, an online spelling word search, at 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 Maria Ibrra could be deported.  (Photo: Jenna Watson/IndyStar)

Despite the attempts at normalcy, anxiety is high for them. The weighing of costs, what is important, looms over all parties involved. For Ibrra, it’s simple.

"She is our hope."

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