Posted on October 21, 2020

Los Angeles County Votes to Pay $14 Million to Former Immigrant Detainees

Maria Sacchetti, Washington Post, October 13, 2020

Los Angeles County agreed to pay $14 million to thousands of immigrants it held for deportation at the request of the Obama administration, to settle a lawsuit that challenged the sheriff’s authority to help U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detain immigrants.


The class-action lawsuit affects an estimated 18,500-plus immigrants detained from October 2010 to June 2014 in Los Angeles County jails, according to the American Civil Liberties Union and immigrant advocacy groups that brought the lawsuit in federal court. The payouts will range from $250 to $25,000 apiece, depending on factors such as how long they were detained, lawyers said. {snip}

The lawsuit, filed in 2012 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, argued that the sheriff’s department overstepped its authority by effectively rearresting immigrants for the civil violation of being in the United States illegally, after the judges in their criminal cases had ordered them released. Some were held for months at a time.

The case is the largest known settlement reached on behalf of detainees, lawyers for the plaintiffs said.

“This is a very significant settlement, and it is hopefully a wake-up call to law enforcement agencies around the country who continue to hold people for ICE,” said Jennie Pasquarella, director of immigrants’ rights and senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Southern California.


The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department used to routinely detain immigrants for federal officials and was among the agencies that helped the Obama administration reach record levels of deportations, surpassing 400,000 a year at their peak.

But the sheriff’s department stopped cooperating with ICE in 2014, amid outcry in a state where nearly 27 percent of the population is immigrants, according to the census.

California has since passed laws to limit state and local cooperation with immigration enforcement, and hundreds of other local governments have followed suit, drawing criticism from President Trump, who has deported fewer than 300,000 immigrants a year.


Advocates for immigrants said the settlement should serve as a warning to state and local law enforcement agencies that they can be held financially responsible for detaining immigrants if they do not have the legal authority to do so. {snip}