Los Angeles Pays $14 Million To Settle Lawsuit For Detaining Immigrants

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times reported that Los Angeles County “agreed to pay out $14 million to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging that the Sheriff’s Department routinely held people in jail beyond their release dates solely because of pending immigration investigations.” [1] As of 2014, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department has stopped honoring ICE detainer requests, according to the newspaper.

The Los Angeles Times added that “a federal judge concluded in 2018 that holding inmates beyond their release dates under civil immigration detainers violated their 4th Amendment rights.” [1]

In 2013, California adopted the Trust Act. The law barred California government officials from detaining anyone for ICE for more than 48 hours. Additionally, the law prohibited detaining anyone not accused or convicted of a “serious crime”. California was reacting to the Secure Communities program adopted by the Bush administration. The Secure Communities program encouraged local jails to share fingerprint files with ICE and hold detainees for immigration officials. [4]

Secure Communities

According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Secure Communities “is a simple and common sense way to carry out ICE’s enforcement priorities” by making it easier to arrest undocumented immigrants in the custody of other law enforcement agencies. It does this by sharing the fingerprints of those arrested by local authorities with the federal agency.

The Secure Communities program was implemented in all U.S. jurisdictions on January 22, 2013. The program was suspended on November 20, 2014. [5] It was relaunched on January 25, 2017 by Executive Order No: 13768.

Record Deportations

According to The Washington Post, the Obama administration reached “record levels of deportations, surpassing 400,000 a year at its peak.” In contrast, the Trump administration has deported “fewer than 300,000 immigrants a year.” [2]

In 2013, the Obama administration deported a record 432,281 individuals. In 2018, the latest data available, the Trump administration has deported 337,287 immigrants. [3]

The current Los Angeles County Sheriff, Alex Villanueva told the county supervisors that he “kicked ICE out of the jails,” and “banned all transfers of inmates to the custody of ICE.” His predecessor, Leroy “Lee” Baca, is serving a three-year prison sentence for obstructing an investigation into his agency. [2]

Unlike California, Texas authorizes ICE detentions under state law. [2]

Footnotes:

  1. Alene Tchekmedyian, “L.A. County to pay out $14 million over unlawful immigration holds,” Los Angeles Times, October 13, 2020.
  2. Maria Sacchetti, “Los Angeles County votes to pay $14 million to former immigrant detainees,” The Washington Post, October 13, 2020.
  3. John Gramlich, “How border apprehensions, ICE arrets and deportations have changed under Trump,” Pew Research Center, Fact Tank, March 2, 2020.
  4. Alicia A. Caldwell and Louise Radnofsky, “Why Trump Has Deported Fewer Immigrants Than Obama,” The Wall Street Journal, August 3, 2019.
  5. Jeh Charles Johnson, Secretary of U.S. Department of Homeland Security, memorandum to Thomas S. Winkowski, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Megan Mack, Officer of Office of Civil rights and Civil Liberties, and Philip A. McNamara, Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs, November 20, 2014.

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