The Orange County Sheriff’s Department has joined over 140 counties and municipalities countrywide in ending the practice of holding deportable inmates, including illegal immigrants, past their scheduled release dates in order to turn them over to federal immigration authorities.
The sheriff’s department had previously held inmates up to 48 hours past their scheduled release dates so that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) could take those who would potentially be deported, including illegal aliens, into custody directly from jail. Now, the sheriff’s department will call ICE shortly before these inmates leave jail so that immigration authorities can pick them up as they walk out the doors, according to the Orange County Register.
The change in the department’s policy reportedly came about after a federal court ruled that holding inmates beyond their scheduled release dates constitutes a violation of Fourth Amendment rights. However, it is not illegal for the sheriff’s department to call ICE as inmates leave the jail, although Lena Graber, an attorney with the inmate advocacy group following the issue, called the practice “messy.”
“That’s a messy policy decision in some cases,” she told the Register. “It’s certainly not the law (that) they are required to call them. As a policy matter, it’s better for public safety and community relations and human rights to not have law enforcement be involved with deportations.”
Orange County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Jeffrey Hallock disagrees.
“Ideally, in a perfect world, ICE will get here before they are released,” he said in the report. Still, he conceded, “we can’t detain anybody beyond their scheduled release time.”
Los Angeles, San Diego, and Riverside law enforcement agencies are among the over 140 municipalities across the country that have recently ended the practice. The Immigrant Legal Resource Center in San Francisco says the number of cities outlawing the practice increases daily.
Earlier this month, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department said it would only end the holds for ICE inmates awaiting sentencing. “Further review” of county policies led the department to extend the restriction on holds to all inmates.