Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) was among a dozen civil and immigrant rights organizations today to deliver a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) calling for the administration to end its use of immigration detainers.
The letter is a response to a DHS memo released this week unveiling the administration’s implementation plans for the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), which President Obama announced in November 2014 would replace the controversial Secure Communities program. The letter alerts the administration that PEP — particularly its reliance on local law enforcement to honor immigration detainers — carries the same constitutional concerns as the Secure Communities program.
“The PEP program still gives unchecked arrest authority to tens of thousands of immigration agents and fails to fix the Secure Communities program’s constitutional problems,” said Mark Fleming, national litigation coordinator at the National Immigrant Justice Center.
Immigration detainers are the written requests DHS uses to ask local law enforcement agencies to detain individuals beyond their authority so that the federal government may take the individuals into custody. Detainers have funneled thousands of immigrants into the detention and deportation system following traffic encounters and other minor offenses. Numerous U.S. citizens also have been detained for weeks, months, or years as the result of detainers.
Last year, a number of federal court decisions held that immigration detainers fail to comply with fundamental protections under the Fourth Amendment. As a result, hundreds of local law enforcement agencies across the country have adopted policies prohibiting compliance with immigration detainers which do not include a judicial warrant or judicial determination of probable cause. NIJC is currently litigating a certified class action lawsuit challenging constitutional and other legal violations with DHS’s use of immigration detainers.
“Without a judicial determination of probable cause or any individualized determination of probable cause, it remains highly likely that wrongful detentions of U.S. citizens and other individuals will continue,” Fleming said. “State and local governments will bear the brunt of liability and blame when that happens.”