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A Chicago judge has allowed a lawsuit against the government’s use of immigration detainers to proceed forward. The plaintiffs may also expand the case to a class-action suit on behalf of thousands of people being unfairly held in prison by ICE.
Jimenez Moreno was arrested in Rockford, Illinois and indicted by the State of Illinois for two felonies: a cocaine charge and threatening a public official. ICE also issued a detainer that same day against Moreno. In a similar case, Maria Jose Lopez pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony and ICE issued a detainer against her causing her to be subject to removal. Moreno was mistakenly held in jail for six months at Winnebago County on suspicion of being an undocumented immigrant. Another immigrant was held in a maximum security prison for over a year while his legal status was being investigated.
The Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center is suing the government on behalf of Moreno and Lopez and all those in a similar situation questioning “the procedure of allowing presumed undocumented immigrants to be held in jail beyond the period established by judges and prosecutors within which their immigration status must be verified.”
Lawyers and advocates for immigrants are in support of this challenge as it will make these ICE procedures illegal and unconstitutional. It holds the government accountable for immigration detainers and does not allow the government to duck the legal consequences for wrongful detainers. “According to information obtained by the center, the Department of Homeland Security issued 271,000 detainers during fiscal year 2009 and more than 201,000 in the first 11 months of fiscal 2010. It is suspected that several of these were unconstitutional. This lawsuit hopes to put an end to wrongful detainers and protect the rights of immigrants who are thrust into the legal system.
NIJC National Litigation Coordinator Mark Fleming believes, “The government cannot simply cancel wrongful detainers in order to duck legal action that challenges this practice.” A mitigating factor in favor of detainers is that is facilitates thousands of annual deportations of undocumented immigrants who commit crimes, however if the cost of the program is wrongfully detaining many other immigrants, then perhaps it is best to completely postpone the program until a better and safer way is found to accurately determine which people are to be detained.
If you have a family member in Missouri or Illinois who is facing deportation, contact us at 314-961-8200 or visit our contact page.