Local Detention of Aliens Upheld in Tennessee

Press Releases

September 18, 2018

Federal court agrees with IRLI that Nashville’s civil detention was constitutional

WASHINGTON – On Monday, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee reversed its prior view on whether Nashville officials violated an alien’s Fourth Amendment rights by detaining him in a local jail at the request of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In an earlier ruling, the same court had indicated that the alien’s detention violated the Fourth Amendment’s bar on unreasonable seizures because local authorities lacked probable cause to believe that the alien had committed a crime.

The Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) submitted a friend-of-the-court brief urging the court to change its mind in light of intervening appellate-court precedent, and the court did so. This time around, the court agreed with IRLI in recognizing that probable cause to believe that a crime had been committed is unnecessary in civil removal proceedings – which, to quote the court, “necessarily contemplate detention absent proof of criminality.” The court also held that, as IRLI had pointed out, local officers were entitled to rely on federal authorities’ civil probable cause determination that the alien plaintiff in this case was present in the United States unlawfully. The court accordingly held that the alien’s detention comported with the Fourth Amendment, and dismissed his lawsuit.

“IRLI is delighted with the outcome of this case. We will not stand idly by while local jurisdictions are attacked for assisting federal law enforcement officers,” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI. “Since there are only about 20,000 ICE employees, but over 12 million illegal aliens in the country, local officials’ involvement is vital to the enforcement of our immigration laws. Congress intended for local jurisdictions to cooperate with ICE and, under Fourth Amendment case law, it is clearly reasonable for local jurisdictions to do so.”

The case is Abriq v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, No. 3:17-cv-00690 (M. D. Tenn.).

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

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