LOS ANGELES — On Wednesday, a federal court in California reaffirmed its class action ruling that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department unlawfully detained thousands of suspected immigrants on the basis of unconstitutional requests from ICE known as immigration detainers. The court’s ruling confirms that plaintiffs in the action are entitled to monetary damages to compensate for their unlawful detentions.
The court’s decision is the latest chapter in the groundbreaking class action Roy v. County of Los Angeles brought by a class of individuals held unlawfully in the county jail, with representation by the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), the law firm of Kaye, McLane, Bednarski & Litt, the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), and the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project.
“The court’s decision vindicates years of work by the Los Angeles immigrant community to challenge the sheriff department’s abuses. It is further proof for local law enforcement that there will be consequences for collaborating with ICE’s unconstitutional assault on immigrants,” said Jessica Bansal, litigation director of NDLON. “This confirms that the California Values Act is not just good policy, but also ensures police comply with the U.S. Constitution.”
In its decision, the court rejected a broad application of the Fifth Circuit’s recent decision City of El Cenizo v. Texas regarding immigration detainers. The court concluded that El Cenizo is irrelevant, because generally local police do not have authority to arrest or detain individuals for alleged civil immigration violations. The judge wrote: “The epicenter of the Court’s decision is that the local law enforcement in this case does not have the authority to arrest individuals for civil immigration violations, which is in line with Supreme Court precedent.”
“For years, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the largest law enforcement agency in the United States, callously denied immigrants constitutional protections that universally apply to all other jail detainees – unjustifiably holding them without cause as prisoners,” said Lindsay Battles, an attorney with Kaye, McLane, Bednarski & Litt. “These decisions ensure that the sheriff’s department will not escape responsibility for thousands of unlawful incarcerations and will be required to compensate every person injured by their unconstitutional policies.”
In a companion ruling, the court significantly expanded the number of individuals entitled to monetary compensation for being unlawfully detained by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department as a result of an ICE detainer. It is estimated the more than 10,000 class members could be entitled to compensation for days, and in some cases months, of unlawful detention due to detainers and the collateral consequence of not being released on bail.
“This decision should be a wakeup call to law enforcement around the country,” said Jennie Pasquarella, director of immigrants’ rights and senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Southern California. “If you honor ICE detainers you risk significant financial liability.” “Courts around the country are almost uniform in finding it unlawful for local police to hold individuals on immigration detainers,” said Mark Fleming, associate director of litigation at NIJC. “As local police, why would you trust ICE?”
Read the court decisions here:
Decision Denying LA County’s Motion for Reconsideration: View PDF
Decision Denying LA County’s Motion for Decertification of the Class: View PDF
Decision Amending the Class Definition: View PDF