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Federal Judge Bans ICE Detainers on Immigrants

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A federal judge has ordered ICE officials to stop requesting local jails to detain some prisoners set for release to determine their immigration status. (SAKDAWUT12/iStockphoto)
A federal judge has ordered ICE officials to stop requesting local jails to detain some prisoners set for release to determine their immigration status. (SAKDAWUT12/iStockphoto)
 By Mark Richardson - Producer, Contact
October 10, 2016

AUSTIN, Texas -- A federal judge has ordered U.S. immigration officials to stop requesting that local law enforcement detain certain people without a warrant in order to determine their immigration status.

The ruling adds fuel to an already fiery debate in Texas and other states over so-called "sanctuary cities," in which local officials shelter undocumented immigrants from Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. Bob Libal, executive director at Grassroots Leadership, said that while the ruling initially only applies to six Midwestern states, he believes it will eventually apply everywhere, including Texas.

"We're not entirely sure what that's going to mean for some of the detainers that are issued here in Texas,” Libal said. "We also believe that the underlying assertion of the court is correct and that will have the impact of affecting other courts around the country."

The order, issued last week in Illinois, bars ICE from requesting that local jailers detain potentially deportable prisoners for 48 hours when they would otherwise be free to leave. Immigrant advocates have long claimed that ICE holds are illegal and often placed on people stopped for only minor offenses.

ICE officials did not comment on the ruling.

The topic has become a major issue in the race for Travis County sheriff, where the Democratic candidate has vowed to end voluntary cooperation with ICE. Advocates said her stance would make Austin the state's first true sanctuary city. Libal says opposition to warrantless ICE holds has been growing in other parts of the state as well.

"In Dallas County, the sheriff said she wouldn't be honoring some detainers, and in Houston, there's been a very active campaign to try to convince elected officials there to end detainers,” Libal said. "We do believe that there seems to be growing momentum against these things."

The national Immigrant Legal Resource Center said more than 400 communities around the country have adopted policies limiting or ending cooperation with immigration detainers. The Texas Legislature is expected to consider a bill in 2017 to punish cities and counties that adopt such policies. A similar initiative failed in 2015.

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