Iowa jails refusing detainees without court order

As many as 22 jails in Iowa are refusing to hold immigrants in jail without a court order. According to the Associated Press, county jails are not accepting requests from federal immigration authorities who want to bring in detainees for traffic violations or other state and local infractions because they are suspected of being undocumented immigrants.

It’s common practice for Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to bring detainees to county jails, and in the past, local authorities have mostly complied without being given a court order signed by a judge.

“They have resulted in the illegal imprisonment of countless individuals – including U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and Latinos in particular – often without any charges pending, sometimes for days or weeks after they should have been released from custody,” Erica Johnson, the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa’s immigrants’ rights and racial justice advocate told the AP.

There were nearly 3,000 people held in Iowa jails during 2012 and 2013, researchers at Syracuse University found, and 63 percent of those being held on ICE detention requests had no criminal record.

The AP reported that the ACLU of Iowa recently sent letters to sheriffs in 99 counties to inform them that they are not required to accept suspected undocumented immigrants unless there is a court order from a judge to do so.

After receiving the letters, 22 sheriffs told the organization that they will no longer accept detainees. Among the counties refusing ICE retainers are Linn, Sioux, Story, Pottawattamie and Johnson.

Polk County is also refusing to hold suspected immigrants in jail without warrants. In 2012 and 2013, Polk County held 488 immigration detainees, more than any other in the state.

The Associated Press also reported that Polk County Sheriff Bill McCarthy told jail officials to no longer honor federal requests as of early June.