Is the United States a Sanctuary Country?

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November 15, 2023

IRLI shows lower court wrongly stripped U.S. Marshals of authority to arrest illegal aliens for ICE

WASHINGTON—Yesterday, the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) filed a brief in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals urging reversal of a D.C. federal district court’s ruling that U.S. Marshals have no authority to make immigration arrests.

The case was brought by an illegal alien who was released on his own recognizance by the magistrate judge hearing his criminal case in a D.C. trial court. At that point, a U.S. Marshal detained him, as requested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), until ICE could arrive and assume custody. The judge in the D.C. federal district court the alien later sued in concluded that the Marshal only had authority to maintain the alien in custody, not to initiate custody of him after the magistrate judge had released him.

In its brief, IRLI shows that the district court’s conclusion is based on an erroneous reading of the statutes and regulations granting wide-ranging law enforcement authority to U.S. Marshals. They not only have the authority to comply with ICE’s requests to maintain custody of an alien, but to initiate custody of—that is, to arrest—an alien based on an ICE request for detention. This authority is both delegated to Marshals by the Attorney General and given to Marshals directly by statute. Marshals also have the authority to arrest persons they have probable cause to believe are in the country illegally, even without a request by ICE.

“We have all heard of sanctuary cities and states, which unlawfully refuse to cooperate with ICE, but now, according to the district court, even federal law enforcement officers can’t cooperate with ICE,” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI. “We hope the D.C. Circuit sees this activist decision for what it is, and restores Marshals to their full powers to enforce our nation’s immigration laws as needed.”

The case is N.S. v. Dixon, No. 21-5275 (D.C. Circuit).

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