County officials in one state agreed to make $14 million in payments for illegally detaining 19,000 immigrants. Advocates for immigrant rights in Texas and throughout the country are paying close attention to the outcome of the case.
The class-action lawsuit filed in the case accused the L.A. Sheriff’s Department of both constitutional and immigration law violations when it made it a regular practice to jail immigrants past the release date given to them by a court. According to the lawsuit, the illegal jailing happened at the request of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and would sometimes last for months. A federal judge ruled in 2018 that the execution of “ICE holds” constituted arbitrary arrests.
A leader for the Southern California branch of the American Civil Liberties Union expressed hope that the settlement will be a wake-up call for other law enforcement agencies that continue to illegally jail immigrants in response to ICE requests. The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department is the largest law enforcement agency in the country. The immigrants receiving payment as part of the current judgment spent unlawful time in jail from 2015 to 2019. The arrests happened under the leadership of an ex-sheriff, who is now in prison after convictions for obstruction of justice and lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigations.
A British filmmaker was arrested and detained for three months in an ICE hold in 2012. The filmmaker filed the lawsuit that resulted in the judgment shortly after his release from jail. The current policy of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department is to only hold immigrants past their release date if ICE presents a judge-approved warrant.
The policies that make up the U.S. immigration system are both complex and subject to change. An experienced immigration attorney may help immigrants and their families navigate the process more smoothly than they would be able to do on their own.