During a press conference on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer mentioned that DeKalb County was one of a list of municipalities that is not cooperating with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) to carry out Donald Trump's immigration policies.
Spicer cited a new report from ICE that explains which municipalities are not cooperating with them.
“This is another example … why the President is so passionate about this,” Spicer said. “And if you go to the ICE website and download this, you’ll see it’s over 30-something pages of cases where there’s a person that is convicted of a crime that local people — local municipal law enforcement, for whatever reason — and in some cases they’re prohibited, but for one reason or another are not enforcing the law and not turning that individual over to federal authorities to be deported.”
ICE often requests that local police departments hold jail inmates longer than planned so they can check if the person who is supposed to be released is eligible for deportation, but DeKalb County has had a policy of rejecting those requests since 2014. Many other places on the list have similar policies.
“The law does not allow us to hold anyone without probable cause," DeKalb County Sheriff Jeff Mann said in 2014 when his department's policy was enacted. "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.”
After Spicer's comments on Tuesday, Mann responded on Wednesday by saying that "federal case law has determined that detaining inmates beyond lawful release without sufficient probable cause or a judicial warrant from ICE is a violation of constitutional law."
One immigration law expert explained to ATTN: why some police departments might be reluctant to hold inmates for ICE, beyond just legal issues.
"Different police departments have different orders from their sheriffs and their police chiefs and from their city councils about what they should require before holding people at the request of ICE," Kevin R. Johnson, Dean of the University of California, Davis School of Law, told ATTN:.
He said some departments require that there be a warrant presented to them to hold somebody before they will agree to do so, and some have more relaxed rules.
"The basic concern is that local police are more interested in enforcing the criminal justice laws in their jurisdictions than they are in assisting federal immigration enforcement," Johnson said. "They're very worried about being perceived as being part of the immigration enforcement machinery, because if they are viewed by the immigrants in the community as being part of immigration enforcement, it's going to be much more difficult to ensure the trust in the immigrant community that's necessary to get cooperation for reporting crimes, being witnesses in trials for crimes and generally trying to help the police fight crime."
He noted there can also be a Fourth Amendment concern when it comes to police departments holding people longer than necessary just because ICE requests it.
Johnson said that ICE publishing the report on local police departments seems to reflect the Trump administration's efforts to put immigration in the spotlight and get the public behind its policies.
A blog post published by the ACLU on Tuesday says this issue is part of a larger legal battle. It claims ICE is trying to shame local police departments into doing what they want them to do by publishing this list of departments that aren't cooperating, despite the fact ICE's requests could be legally questionable.
"ICE goes out of its way to suggest that a detainer is something that it isn’t — a simple request to know when someone is being let out of jail," the post reads. "But that simply isn’t true. A detainer is a request to hold someone in jail, often longer than the local law enforcement agency is legally allowed. Doing so can lead to illegal arrests and the violation of a person’s constitutional rights."