IRLI Files Brief Defending ICE Detainers for Illegal Aliens

Press Releases

March 16, 2018

Ensuring the safety and security of our communities

WASHINGTON – The Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) yesterday filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit urging the Court to uphold the legality of local law enforcement’s compliance with immigration detainer requests by federal authorities. In a detainer request, federal officials ask that local officers hold illegal aliens who have been jailed for crimes for an additional 48 hours past when they are otherwise eligible for release so that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) may take custody of them in a controlled environment.

At the request of ICE, Marion County, Indiana, police detained Antonio Lopez-Aguilar, an illegal alien, during his hearing at the local traffic court to answer a misdemeanor charge of driving without a license. Local police held Lopez-Aguilar until he was transferred into ICE custody the next day.

Lopez-Aguilar thereupon sued the sheriff’s department in federal court, claiming that his detention by local officials was a violation of the Fourth Amendment. The case never went to trial. Instead, Lopez-Aguilar and the sheriff’s department reached an agreement that a) detainer compliance violates the Fourth Amendment and b) detainer requests would no longer be complied with in Marion County. The parties drafted up this agreement and federal district judge Sarah Evans Barker, who was hearing the case, entered it as a consent judgment.

As an interested party, the State of Indiana tried to intervene in the case to stop detainer compliance from being extinguished in one of its counties, but Judge Barker denied the state’s motion to intervene. Indiana has appealed that denial, and the consent judgment itself, in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

IRLI’s brief in this appeal challenges the merits of the lower court’s declaration that honoring immigration detainers violates the Fourth Amendment. IRLI first shows that it is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment for ICE itself to detain illegal aliens, and then shows that it is also reasonable for local officers, relying on ICE’s determination of probable cause, to detain illegal aliens at ICE’s request.

“It would be beyond unreasonable to require ICE to obtain a judicial warrant every time it detained an illegal alien,” said Christopher Hajec, IRLI’s director of litigation. “If ICE had to do that, immigration enforcement would grind to a halt. And local police detain suspects for violating federal laws, when the federal government asks for that assistance, all the time,” Hajec added. “Such cooperation is not suddenly unreasonable just because the federal law that’s been violated is immigration law.”

“The constitutionality of immigration detainers is solid, and legal precedent establishes that the federal government may enforce the nation’s immigration laws by detaining removable aliens, and local law enforcement may assist them in that endeavor” said Dale L. Wilcox, IRLI’s executive director and general counsel. “We are hopeful that the Seventh Circuit will say just that, and second the Fifth Circuit’s major ruling earlier this week, agreeing with our friend-of-the-court brief in that case, that honoring detainers complies with the Fourth Amendment.”

The case is Lopez-Aguilar v. Marion County Sheriff’s Department, et al, No. 18-1050 (7th Cir.).

For additional information, contact: Brian Lonergan • 202-232-5590 • [email protected]

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