Friday, August 12, 2011
Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) has filed a federal class action lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for unlawfully detaining immigrants and U.S. citizens identified through local law enforcement agencies.
The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of DHS’s use of immigration detainers, which instruct police to continue to detain individuals after the local police’s authority has expired, until DHS officers arrive to take the individuals into custody. Among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit is a U.S. citizen who has been held on an immigration detainer since March 2011 following his arrest in Rockford, Illinois. As a U.S. citizen, the man cannot be deported from the United States.
“DHS detainers deprive thousands of men and women of basic constitutional due process rights,” said NIJC Executive Director Mary Meg McCarthy. “This expansive use of detainers harms U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, families, and communities, and betrays American ideals of fairness and justice.”
The detainers violate the Fourth and Fifth Amendments because DHS fails to establish probable cause before issuing the detainers, does not notify individuals that detainers have been issued against them, and provides no means by which individuals can challenge their extended detention. Additionally, DHS’s use of detainers violates the 10th Amendment because it requires state and local governments to implement federal law.
Detainers have become an important immigration enforcement tool for the Obama administration, allowing DHS to vastly increase deportations while passing the cost on to local law enforcement agencies. Under the Secure Communities program, when local police make an arrest, they must send fingerprint information to a federal immigration database, which frequently triggers detainer requests. DHS issued about 271,000 immigration detainers in fiscal year 2009 and more than 201,000 detainers through the first 11 months of fiscal year 2010.
Read more about the plaintiffs and the lawsuit here.