Immigration detainer requests are a key tool of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE’s) Se Communities deportation program. Their use has sharply increased under the Obama Administration, fueling unprecedented levels of deportations. But, unlike criminal warrants, immigration detainers–which ask local law enforcement to detain individuals suspected of civil immigration violations beyond their release dates–are not accompanied by judicial probable cause findings. The recent court decision, by a federal district judge in Oregon, holds that this is a fatal flaw; local law enforcement agencies that detain people on the basis of immigration detainers are violating the Fourth Amendment.

In the wake of the court’s decision, dozens of counties throughout Oregon, Washington, and Colorado have announced that they will stop complying with immigration detainer requests. Counties that continue to detain people on immigration detainers may face significant legal liability. In California, a pending class action lawsuit against the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department seeks money damages for tens of thousands of individuals held unlawfully on immigration detainers since 2011. Although the California TRUST Act has sharply limited compliance with immigration detainers throughout the state since it went into effect on January 1, 2014, local law enforcement agencies remain liable for any ongoing compliance with immigration detainers in violation of the federal constitution.


Jennie Pasquarella, Staff Attorney at the ACLU of Southern California, said: “We applaud the quick action by counties in Oregon, Washington, and Colorado to end compliance with these unconstitutional immigration detainer requests. We have been warning California counties for years about the liability they face for detaining people on immigration detainers. We hope this recent decision will serve as a wake up call–only a complete end to compliance with immigration detainers is sufficient to protect the constitutional rights of Californians.”

Jessica Karp, Staff Attorney at the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said: “Once again, immigrants are defending the Constitution for us all. Detention based on investigation–rather than probable cause–is offensive to our fundamental principals. But ICE has made it routine. The recent court decision is a reminder to ICE that it is not above the Constitution, and a warning to local law enforcement agencies that collaboration with ICE can have serious negative consequences.”

A copy of the letter is below:


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