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LA federal judge rules that key part of Trump immigration crackdown effort is illegal

Joel Rubin, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Along with his finding that local police cannot legally hold people in custody at ICE's request, Birrotte ruled on other aspects of the detainer process.

ICE, for example, was wrong to issue detainers for people who were born overseas but were not found in the massive databases federal agents rely on when determining a person's immigration status. ICE officials said in court filings that the agency stopped the practice in June 2015.

And the Sheriff's Department practice of booking people with ICE detainers into jail even if their bail had been set at less than $25,000 was improper, Birotte said. Typically, the department did not put someone with bail under that amount behind bars. The department said the policy was changed in 2014.

An ICE practice of issuing detainers for people without a warrant when there was no evidence that the subject was a flight risk was illegal, the judge ruled.

The order came in a class-action lawsuit that challenges several aspects of detainer requests -- electronic alerts that ICE officers commonly issue when a local police department has custody of someone ICE believes should be deported. The notices, among other things, ask police to keep targeted inmates beyond when they would otherwise be released in order to give ICE agents time to take custody of them.

The lawsuit, which combined two separate cases, is being waged by several groups and law firms and has been winding its way through the court since 2012. One of the original cases was filed by U.S. citizens who were in Los Angeles County jails when ICE wrongly issued detainers for them. The other was brought by immigrants challenging the Sheriff's Department's cooperation with ICE.


Finding that some issues needed to be hashed out in front of a jury, Birotte did not rule on all aspects of the case.

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