The city of Los Angeles announced Monday that it will no longer honor requests from federal immigration officials to detain undocumented immigrants for possible deportation without either a court order or arrest warrant, citing constitutional concerns raised by recent court decisions.
In announcing the decision, Mayor Eric Garcetti and police Chief Charlie Beck cited a recent decision by a federal judge in Oregon who found that local authorities violated the 4th Amendment rights of an undocumented immigrant held for two weeks on an ICE hold despite being eligible for release. Specifically, the judge found that such detainers lacked the necessary legal underpinnings, such as probable cause or a judicial determination, required to hold a suspect for a longer period.
They also cited a bulletin to law enforcement from California Attorney General Kamala Harris last week questioning the legality of the detentions.
"Until this area of the law is further clarified by the courts, effective immediately the Los Angeles Police Department will no longer honor immigration detainer requests submitted by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)," Garcetti and Beck said in a statement.
The decision by Los Angeles comes amid an escalating debate over U.S. immigration policy, fueled by questions over whether tens of thousands of undocumented Central American children who recently entered the U.S. illegally will be deported or allowed to stay. President Obama has vowed to ask Congress this week for added funding to deal with the the children and families' cases.
Los Angeles' decision to stop honoring the ICE requests represents another front in the immigration fight, with other local governments, including Philadelphia, Cook County, Ill., Newark, N.J., and other areas in California, recently deciding to limit or end their cooperation with federal immigration enforcement.
The LAPD already had previously curtailed its participation in the deportation program authorized by ICE's Secure Communities program, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush on Sept. 30 2008. In October 2012, Chief Beck announced that the department would no longer honor requests from federal authorities to detain illegal immigrants arrested for low-level crimes and sought for deportation.
In a statement, ICE said it remains "committed to working with its law enforcement partners" and expects local authorities to comply with its detention requests.
"When law enforcement agencies turn criminals over to ICE rather than releasing them into the community, it enhances public safety and the safety of law enforcement," the statement said." To further this shared goal, ICE anticipates that law enforcement agencies will comply with immigration detainers.
The immigration holds have allowed ICE to investigate when an undocumented immigrant is arrested by local law enforcement and take them into custody if they are found to have committed serious crimes.
But the practice has been criticized by those who say it has resulted in the large-scale deportation of people who have not committed serious crimes.
Beck said he did not believe the decision would impact crime in Los Angeles. Since January, the LAPD has made a total of 50,000 arrests. Of those, ICE has made 773 requests for a detainer and 309 of those have been honored, according to LAPD officials.
LAPD jails only house suspects for up to 72 hours before they are transferred to the Los Angeles County jail system.
Los Angeles County Sheriff's spokeswoman Nicole Nashida said Monday that under department policy, ICE is notified when the department begins processing an undocumented inmate out of the jail, which can take days or weeks. Inmates are not held past their normal release date but Nashida said that two ICE buses arrive each day to pick up inmates.
She said that together with their law enforcement partners, the department is evaluating that policy to ensure that it complies with 'best practices.'