Thousands Released After Immigration Holds Denied

Amy Taxin, ABC News, October 17, 2014

Immigration officials say local authorities across the U.S. released thousands of immigrants from jails this year despite efforts to take them into federal custody, including more than 3,000 with previous felony charges or convictions.

The numbers are the first time federal immigration authorities have publicly detailed how many times local agencies have refused to comply with their requests. They highlight the friction between the federal government and police and sheriff’s departments, some of which say holding immigrants beyond their release dates harms community policing efforts.

Immigration officials say the denials pose a public safety threat as immigrants who previously would have been placed in federal custody once they were eligible to leave jail are being released into communities where they could commit new crimes.

In the first eight months of this year, immigration agents filed roughly 105,000 requests for local agencies to hold immigrants for up to 48 hours after they were eligible for release on the allegations for which they initially were arrested, said Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The agents wanted the immigrants held so they could take them into federal custody and start deportation proceedings.

Local law enforcement agencies declined 8,800 such requests, also known as detainers, during the same period. Those released include people arrested for investigation of domestic violence and drug charges, as well as others detained on lesser offenses but who had past convictions for crimes such as assault with a deadly weapon, Kice said.

Across the country, many local agencies no longer are willing to hold jailed immigrants beyond their scheduled release dates. They say immigrants should not be held longer than U.S citizens for the same crime, and turning them over to ICE creates an atmosphere of distrust among community members.

Colorado stopped honoring detainers earlier this year, and New York City is considering doing the same.

In California, local law enforcement agencies scaled back their collaboration with ICE to comply with a state law that took effect this year limiting the use of immigration detainers. {snip}

Five Southern California counties no longer honor ICE’s requests, said David Marin, deputy field office director for the agency’s enforcement and removal operations in the greater Los Angeles area. {snip}


In Illinois, a man who was released from jail despite a 2011 request by immigration authorities to detain him shot and killed his 15-year-old girlfriend earlier this year, Kice said.


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