New York Sheriffs Take a Stand Against Immigration Detention

July 31, 2014

The New York State Sheriffs’ Association has recommended that its members refuse requests by federal immigration authorities to hold foreign-born detainees for additional time so that they can be investigated for immigration-related offenses.

At least nine sheriffs in the state have vowed to follow the association’s guidance, joining a growing wave of law enforcement agencies around the nation that have made similar policy changes, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union, which has been pressing the jurisdictions in the state to make the changes.

The shift follows a series of federal court rulings this year that raised questions about the constitutionality of the holds, which are known as detainers and are a key part of the federal immigration-enforcement machinery. Immigration authorities have for years issued detainers to local and state law enforcement agencies, asking them to hold immigrant detainees for up to 48 hours after they were scheduled for release from jail.

Many of those detainees are then transferred into federal custody and end up in deportation proceedings.

“We’re pleased that some of the counties that have large immigrant populations have recognized that they can’t legally hold people based on an ICE detainer,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, using the acronym for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency that issues the holds.

“We applaud the state sheriffs’ association for recognizing that you can’t violate the law to enforce the law,” Ms. Lieberman added.

Amid the rising deportation rates recorded under the Obama administration, immigrants’ advocates have lobbied local law enforcement agencies to limit, if not end, their compliance with federal detainers, arguing that municipalities should not be helping to enforce federal immigration laws and that the policy undermines immigrants’ trust in local authorities.

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