Report: Nearly Half Pennsylvania Counties Do Not Honor ICE Holds

AP Photo
AP Photo

Nearly half the counties in Pennsylvania do not honor Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) requests to hold criminal immigrants beyond their release dates, a practice intended to allow time for immigration officials to look into possible immigration violations.

According to new report out of Temple University, highlighted by The Philadelphia Inquirer, 32 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties say they do not honor ICE holds.

The Inquirer notes that many of the counties began the practice of noncompliance after the ACLU sued on behalf of Ernesto Galarza, an America citizen who was mistaken for an undocumented immigrant, who was held on an ICE detainer for several days despite posting bail in Lehigh County.

While both ICE and the local police were found liable for damages, but not the county, Galarza appealed and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that Lehigh County was also liable for damages.

The report probed the practice of ICE holds compliance by sending out a survey to Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. Some 52 counties responded. Among them, 32 counties said they do not honor ICE holds and 20 said they do. The counties had varying practices on whether the policy was written or not.

Jennifer J. Lee, director of Temple’s Social Justice Lawyering Clinic and the student-conducted report’s supervisor, told The Inquirer that the Galarza has been an impetus for some Pennsylvania counties to ignore ICE holds given the liability, but said there are other reasons to ignore them, including limited resources.

She noted to the publication that the state is experiencing a shift, “moving away from honoring ICE detainers.”

Even before the 2014 Galarza appeals decision, immigration detainers were on the decline across the country. A study from Syracuse University found that from Fiscal Year 2012 to March 2014, immigration detainers nationally declined 39 percent. The study pointed to a variety of factors in the decline of detainer usage, including court challenges, and localities not honoring the detainer.