By Joseph Montano, Immigrants’ Rights Coordinator
Today, we applaud the Chesterfield County Sheriff’s Office for their decisive action and for recognizing the critical importance of fostering trust between immigrant communities and local law enforcement.
The Chesterfield County Sheriff became the first in Virginia to make public that he has stopped honoring ICE detainer requests not accompanied by a warrant. The move comes in response to a July 31, 2014 letter from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia. In the letter, we advised sheriffs and other correctional officials that detaining someone on an ICE detainer request is voluntary and may violate the detainee’s Fourth Amendment and due process rights, leaving localities vulnerable to costly lawsuits.
As our letter stated, there are serious constitutional concerns raised when individuals are detained under warrantless ICE detainer requests. Localities in Virginia that continue to honor these requests are putting individual’s constitutional rights in jeopardy and communities at risk of costly lawsuits to vindicate those rights.
Recent federal court decisions have made clear that detaining individuals on warrantless ICE detainer requests is a violation of the detainee’s Fourth Amendment and due process rights. Attorneys General from Illinois, Maryland, and California have already issued opinions closely mirroring the courts’ findings. Yet, warrantless ICE detainer requests are still being honored in over 80 localities in Virginia, and Chesterfield County alone issued 519 of them from fiscal year 2012 to fiscal year 2013.
Our Constitution guarantees the right not to be imprisoned without probable cause or due process of law. Yet ICE routinely asks local officials to hold people in jail, beyond the time when they should be released, based on nothing more than ICE’s interest in investigating whether they might be subject to removal. That’s fundamentally incompatible with our constitutional system.
It’s time for the rest of the Commonwealth to follow Chesterfield County’s example and end a practice that tramples the rights of immigrants and establishes the principle that a person can be deprived of liberty without due process.