Suit slams Trump-influenced immigrant detentions in Florida

A January protest over the Miami-Dade mayor’s decision to aid federal immigration authorities. Photo via The New York Times.

MIAMI (AP) Miami-Dade County is violating the U.S. Constitution by detaining people without a warrant to comply with Trump administration immigration policies, the American Civil Liberties Union said Wednesday in a federal lawsuit.

The ACLU and other attorneys filed the lawsuit in Miami on behalf of a Honduran-born U.S. citizen who was held in jail without charges because an immigration officer had requested deportation proceedings.

Miami-Dade County, where more than half the population is foreign born, became the only big jurisdiction to give in to President Donald Trump’s immigration order punishing so-called sanctuary cities that shield residents from federal immigration authorities. Cities in California, Massachusetts and Washington have challenged Trump’s executive order in court, and a federal judge blocked it in April, at least temporarily.

Garland Creedle was arrested March 12 in a case of alleged domestic violence and was due to be released March 13 on bail. The 18-year-old was held an additional night on the “detainer” request before being released March 14 — apparently after immigration authorities confirmed his citizenship.

Although Creedle is a U.S. citizen, attorneys behind the lawsuit argue that anyone held beyond the closing of a criminal case on an immigration detainer is being “unlawfully detained.”

“The fact that he is a U.S. citizen and is held under these detainers is important because it shows that the probable cause determination on the detainers form does not pass constitutional muster,” said Rebecca Sharpless, an attorney for Creedle and director of the University of Miami law’s immigration clinic. “If you are a U.S. citizen and a detainer is issued to determine there is probable cause to deport you — that is wrong.”

The complaint says the county is in violation of the Fourth Amendment that protects people from unreasonable arrests. The lawsuit also says Florida law prohibits jail officials from detaining people for civil immigration purposes.

Between Jan. 27 and June 15, the county received 338 requests for detainers, and 124 people were turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. More than 100 of those remaining were still in custody. The rest were released because ICE had withdrawn the request or had not gone to pick them up from jail.

A 2013 county resolution had established that Miami-Dade law enforcement officers would comply with federal immigration officials only in cases of serious charges or convictions and when the federal government agreed to reimburse the county for holding an offender.

But on Jan. 26, a day after Trump announced he would strip federal funding from sanctuary places, Mayor Carlos Gimenez sent a memo instructing the corrections director to honor all immigration detainer requests.

The lawsuit names Gimenez and the county as defendants and seeks an undisclosed amount of compensation and to reverse the county’s policy on holding people for immigration authorities. A county spokeswoman said the mayor will not comment on the lawsuit.

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