ACLU focuses energy on California detainment centers

Throughout the immigration reform debate, many advocacy groups have taken a stand against unfair detainment practices. One of the most outspoken organizations to support the cause is the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The group, which is spread out through most of the U.S., has been focusing its energy on shutting down local detainment centers in California that work with government agencies to deport undocumented immigrants who have no criminal record. Changes to immigration laws that focus on better options for undocumented immigrants have been a major talking point for many political candidates this year, and the ACLU is making the issue its priority.

In mid-May, the ACLU notified sheriffs across California that legal action will be taken against their offices if they continue to take custody of undocumented immigrants for government agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The ACLU argues that local law enforcement offices are violating federal law by detaining immigrants without judicial paperwork to support these arrests.

The advocacy group used the case of Miranda-Olivares v. Clackamas County as an example of unfair detainment practices in California. According to Maria Miranda-Olivares was held in the county jail for violating a restraining order on March 14, 2012. Her family was ready to post her bail, but the jail told them she wouldn’t be released even if bail was paid because of a detainment request from ICE. On March 29, Miranda-Olivares was convicted of contempt of court for her violation of the restraining order, and it was determined she had served her sentence. This made her immediately eligible for release, but the jail continued to hold her for another 19 hours until ICE agents could claim custody of her.

Miranda-Olivares promptly sued Clackamas County for violating the search and seizure provisions stated in the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment. A California district court stated that Miranda-Olivares’s extended detainment needed to be based on probable cause (the judgment an officer makes when they believe a person has violated the law) in order for it to be legal. They found that the detainment was not based on probable cause and ruled in her favor. ACLU hopes that the case sets a legal precedent that all local law enforcement agencies will uphold.