Denver sheriff halts federal immigration holds

DENVER Wed Apr 30, 2014 9:26pm EDT

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DENVER (Reuters) - Denver will no longer hold people in its jail at the request of federal immigration officials once they are eligible for release on the charges they were arrested for, the county's sheriff said on Wednesday.

Sheriff Gary Wilson said he was prompted to issue the new order by recent court rulings that determined requests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials for the holds amounted to potential constitutional violations.

"This change in policy is effective immediately based upon the changing legal landscape," Wilson said in a statement.

So-called "ICE detainers" ask that local police agencies hold a person for 48 hours beyond their release date, a practice that has long been opposed by civil libertarians who say they violate due process rights.

The American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement that more than 30 jurisdictions across the United States have abandoned honoring ICE holds after three courts ruled this year that the requests are voluntary, and local authorities could be liable for constitutional violations.

Additionally, the cities of Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco no longer hold low-level offenders in their lockups on ICE detainers, the ACLU said.

In a memo to his command staff, Wilson spelled out Denver's new policy, saying any such request by ICE would be denied in the absence of "proper legal documents."

"All persons who are in our custody who currently have a 48-hour ICE hold that is not accompanied by a criminal warrant or some other form that gives … legal authority to hold that person shall be dropped," the memo said.

On Monday, the ACLU's Colorado chapter sent letters to all of the state's 64 sheriffs, asking them to review their policies in light of the recent court decisions.

So far, seven counties have agreed to halt the practice, said Mark Silverstein, the ACLU's public policy director.

ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok said in a statement that the agency "will continue to work cooperatively with law enforcement partners throughout Colorado as the agency seeks to enforce its priorities by identifying and removing convicted criminals and others who are public safety threats."

(Editing by Ken Wills)

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