Immigration Holds in North Texas: Indefinite Stays and Dallas County Sheriff
There’s a reason that you get nervous when you see that police car in your rearview mirror: police officers have tremendous power in this country, and we all depend upon them to exercise that power (in legalese, their “police powers”) responsibly. Not that this gives many of us much comfort.
DWI Held on Immigration Bond for 36 Days at ICE Request
Consider the story out of Grand Prairie involving Ricardo Garza. He’s a U.S. citizen. He’s also suing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (”ICE”) for depriving him of his freedom for 36 days unjustly and illegally.
Seems Mr. Garza was pulled over for a suspected DWI (driving while intoxicated) by the Grand Prairie police. He was charged with DWI. When the officer asked him questions regarding his personal information, like his name, address, birthday, etc., Mr. Garza explained that he was born in Mexico and had chosen to become a citizen of this country.
So, Grand Prairie calls ICE to double check on Ricardo Garza’s citizenship and ICE scratches its head. Maybe he’s okay — but maybe he’s a permanent resident, not a full citizen, with a criminal history that would subject him to deportation back to Mexico.
Whammo. ICE asks Grand Prairie to keep Mr. Garza. Don’t give him his freedom — put him in an “immigration hold” in the Dallas County Jail. In the meantime, ICE would get the deportation ball rolling.
Thing is, Ricardo Garza WAS a citizen and ICE was wrong. Over a month later, Mr. Garza finally got to leave a cell because his lawyer got ICE to recognize that he had full American citizenship through his mother, who had been naturalized over 30 years beforehand.
You can read more on Mr. Garza’s treatment by ICE and his subsequent law suit in the news story, “U.S. Citizen Sues Federal Immigration Agency For Detaining Him For 36 Days.”
Dallas County Sheriff Has Been Sued Over ICE Immigration Holds
Last fall, 16 people filed a joint lawsuit in federal court arguing that rights guaranteed by the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution were being violated by Dallas County and Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez in the use of immigration holds (also called “detainers”) as requested by ICE.
This wasn’t a surprise to many who have been involved in getting people out of detention on an immigration bond. And it wasn’t a surprise to the powers-that-be over in Dallas County. In fact, the Governor of Texas had publicly warned Sheriff Valdez the very day that this 16-plaintiff federal suit was filed against her that her policy on ICE immigration detention requests should change.
Sheriff Lupe Valdez’s Controversial Policy Is a Lot Like California’s New Law
Valdez’s policy? She would not honor ICE requests for minor offenses – but these decisions would be made after a case by case evaluation. Just because ICE sends a request to detain someone doesn’t meant that Sheriff Valdez will automatically do as requested by the federal agency.
And she’s following a pattern that has been established in other parts of the country where local communities have decided they are limiting their cooperation with ICE on keeping people behind bars just because ICE sends a paperwork request.
In California, for example, a new state law has been passed that forbids state and local authorities from exercising their police power in an immigration hold request from ICE unless there is confirmation that the individual has been convicted of a dangerous crime, like rape. The California Legislature passed the California Trust Act of 2013 and took the decision-making on ICE requests out of that state’s police departments altogether.
Now, in California, local police cannot detain people for deportation by ICE if they are arrested for a minor crime and there’s nothing in the state or local laws to prevent them from being released from custody.
Dallas County and Immigration Holds
Those 16 people who filed the federal lawsuit had been held in Dallas County Jail for over a year — just because there is an ICE request on file for them to be detained. They had otherwise been cleared for release by Dallas County.
And the new policy implemented by Sheriff Valdez does suggest they may have a point, doesn’t it?
Sheriff Valdez Criticized For Policy on ICE Holds
When asked why she was changing things, Sheriff Valdez explains her reasoning in simple terms: money. This saves Dallas County Jail budget expenses and that’s critical these days. Critical.
Meanwhile, her opponents want ICE requests to be honored no matter what – forget cost. They beat their drums that what Sheriff Valdez is doing is making Dallas a “sanctuary city” where all sorts of evildoers are going to be allowed to go free on Dallas streets before ICE can confirm they’re bad news and grab them up.
Chicken Little? When you consider Ricardo Garza’s story, maybe ….
Constitutional Protections Must Be Respected – Even By ICE
Here’s the thing. Immigration holds can last for a very long time — and innocent people can have their lives ruined. Along with their families. Where’s the time deadline for ICE to get its job done once someone is detained? How long are people (and the County Coffers) supposed to wait for the federal agents to figure out what’s what?
Another thing. Lawyers can help, if those detained can get one. Dallas criminal defense lawyers with experience and knowledge on the immigration bond process and how the federal agencies intertwine with the local law enforcement can make a huge difference in how unjust these detainers can be.
Immigration Bonds Can Help Those Detained Because of ICE Request
How? ICE Bonds are available to help here, for instance. Getting the person targeted by ICE out on bond is the first defense step. The second is fighting against the criminal charges sought by the local law enforcement. The third is dealing with the immigration issue and basis for the ICE request they be detained in the first place.
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