The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan (ACLU) and the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center (MIRC) sent letters today to nine county sheriffs, prosecutors, and two police chiefs, urging that they stop detaining people in jails at the request of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) without a court order. The ACLU and MIRC also submitted requests to these same law enforcement agencies for detainer records, pursuant to the Michigan Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). These detentions are unconstitutional and erode trust in local law enforcement, ultimately making communities less safe.

Immigration detainers, also referred to as ICE holds, are non-mandatory ICE requests to police agencies to keep a person in custody after they would otherwise be released. Typically, the request is for an additional 48 hours. Sheriff and police departments are not legally required to honor ICE holds, but by doing so are potentially violating the person’s Fourth Amendment rights to reasonable search and seizure.

“ICE is not above the law,” said Abril Valdes, immigrant rights attorney for the ACLU of Michigan. “Detainer requests do not establish a person’s citizenship status, and they are not warrants signed by a judge. These detentions are illegal and predatory.”

As of today, more than 50 jurisdictions outside of Michigan abandoned the practice of honoring ICE detainer requests. When local law enforcement agencies aid ICE’s federal immigration efforts without judicial oversight, ordinary police work becomes more complex, straining trust between residents and officers. According to recent studies, prosecutors, judges, and police officers reported that increased national immigration enforcement activity makes it more difficult to protect local communities from crime, in part because crime reporting plummets. This results in communities being less safe.

“Every person in this country is entitled to the rights of the Constitution,” said Ruby Robinson, co-managing attorney of the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center. “Local police must work to keep all Michigan communities safe – not put their time and resources into immigration efforts beyond their jurisdiction that instill fear and destroy trust.”

In January, the Kent County Sheriff's Department announced the end of their ICE-hold policy following the arrest and detention of Jilmar Ramos-Gomez. “The additional requirement of an independent judicial review will increase the level of oversight of an ICE detention request in Kent County, for the justice system is built on a balance of authority and oversight," said Michelle LaJoye-Young, Kent County Sheriff, at a January press conference. “For that reason, we advocate for the requirement of all ICE detention requests to be subject to judicial review at a national level.” 

The ACLU and MIRC filed FOIA requests with each of the 11 jurisdictions that received letters, asking for detainer policies and records beginning from Jan. 1, 2018.

The letter was sent to law enforcement agencies within the following counties: Allegan County; Eaton County; Macomb County; Monroe County; Muskegon County; Oakland County; Oceana County; Ottawa County; and Saint Clair County.

The letter was also sent to the police chiefs of Dearborn and Detroit Police Departments.

Pictured: Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young speaking about the end of Kent County's ICE-hold policy, January 18 2019. Source: MLive on YouTube.