On Friday, civil rights groups file a class-action lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Department of Los Angeles County, alleging unlawful detention of immigrants beyond statutory limits, and of doing so at the behest of the federal government. According to the ACLU, British filmmaker and legal immigrant Duncan Roy had to spend 89 days in jail due to a federal immigration hold that robbed him of the capacity to post bail. A federal immigration hold is usually issued by the federal government when they want someone to remain in custody while deportation procedures for the person are completed.
Jessica Karp, an attorney for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, one of the groups involved in the lawsuit, said, “This massive unconstitutional detention is a symptom of the criminalization of immigrants, a dangerous trend that must be reversed.”
In the instant case, Roy, a legal immigrant was arrested on a misdemeanor extortion charge after he fell out with his ex-boyfriend. He claims his prolonged and unlawful incarceration has probably aggravated the stats of his prostate and colon cancer, and he seeks damages for treatment.
Three Mexican immigrants and an Estonian, who claim to have been similarly detained unlawfully, are also party to the class action suit filed on behalf of all current and future detainees held in a county jail for more than 48 hours only due to federal immigration holds.
According to the ACLU of Southern California, on any given day, at least 14 percent of the Los Angeles County jail population consists of people detained on the basis of Immigration and Customs Enforcement holds. Usually, individual subject to federal immigration holds have to spend three times longer in jails than people without such holds.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement that the cooperation of local law enforcement with the agency in the matter of immigration holds ensures that “potentially dangerous criminals are not released from prisons and jails into our communities.”