Change is in the air for jailed immigrants in the local jurisdictions of Colorado, Oregon and now Washington State. Prior to a recent federal court decision in Oregon, immigrants up for release could continue to be held per the request of federal immigration authorities.
However, in a recent decision by an Oregon federal judge, detainer requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are no longer considered to be "commands," but rather, "requests."
The impact of this decision has been seen almost immediately in Washington State as Walla Walla, Kitsap and Thurston counties, along with a couple others, have begun confirming policy changes in line with the Oregon decision.
King County, having already changed its policy on holding immigrants in accordance with ICE prior to this ruling, makes a differentiation though, stating that immigrants arrested for low-level crimes do not fall under ICE request authority, but those arrested for mid-level to serious crimes will be.
The Oregon case that has spurred on these policy changes took place in early May in Clackamas County and ruled that a woman who had been detained for 48-hours as sentence for being found in contempt of court and subsequently held for more than two weeks, had her Fourth Amendment rights violated.
Groups in Washington State (the American Civil Liberties Union and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project) are now leaning on sheriffs to halt the fulfillment of ICE detainers.
In 38 letters sent to Washington State county sheriffs, these groups stressed the possibility of lawsuits that could be filed on behalf of detained immigrants. In a Seattle Times article, Jorge Barron, executive director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project said, "Anyone could file a lawsuit on behalf of individuals who are unlawfully detained, not just our organizations. But we will certainly be monitoring how these jurisdictions react to the ruling and be prepared to assist individuals who constitutional rights are violated."
In Walla Walla's new detainer policy, it was stated that this new policy served to clarify federal detainer laws in regards to the nature of the requests not being commands.
To read more of the details regarding these policy changes, check out the following articles:
Counties in state dropping immigrant jail holds, Seattle Times
2 Wash. counties stop honoring feds’ immigrant jail holds, KOMOnews.com
Sheriff ends immigration holds for people who would otherwise be released, Union-Bulletin.com