Thousands of Immigrants Held Illegally by LA Sheriff in Response to Fed Requests

March 25, 2019
By Press

A federal judge in Los Angeles reaffirmed a class-action ruling that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department unlawfully detained thousands of suspected immigrants on the basis of unconstitutional requests from ICE known as immigration detainers, civil rights attorneys announced Thursday.

The ruling Wednesday confirms that plaintiffs in the action are entitled to monetary damages to compensate for their allegedly unlawful detentions at the request of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, according to the ACLU Foundation of Southern California.

The decision is the latest chapter in Roy v. County of Los Angeles brought by a class of individuals allegedly held unlawfully in the county jail, with representation by the ACLU, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and other groups.

“The court’s decision vindicates years of work by the Los Angeles immigrant community to challenge the sheriff department’s abuses,” said Jessica Bansal, litigation director of NDLON. “It is further proof for local law enforcement that there will be consequences for collaborating with ICE’s unconstitutional assault on immigrants. This confirms that the California Values Act is not just good policy, but also ensures police comply with the U.S. Constitution.”

In the decision, U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte Jr. rejected a broad application of the Fifth Circuit’s recent decision City of El Cenizo v. Texas regarding immigration detainers. The court concluded that El Cenizo is irrelevant, because generally local police do not have authority to arrest or detain individuals for alleged civil immigration violations.

“For years, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the largest law enforcement agency in the United States, callously denied immigrants constitutional protections that universally apply to all other jail detainees — unjustifiably holding them without cause as prisoners,” said civil rights attorney Lindsay Battles. “These decisions ensure that the sheriff’s department will not escape responsibility for thousands of unlawful incarcerations and will be required to compensate every person injured by their unconstitutional policies.”

In a companion ruling, the court significantly expanded the number of individuals entitled to monetary compensation for being unlawfully detained by the Sheriff’s Department as a result of an ICE detainer. It is estimated the more than 10,000 class members could be entitled to compensation for days, and in some cases months, of unlawful detention due to detainers and the collateral consequence of not being released on bail, the ACLU said.