A federal class action lawsuit was recently approved that could give a number of people unlawfully detained on the basis of their suspected immigration status the ability to sue the U.S. government in federal court. The suit is lead by class member Jimenez Moreno, who was held in a county jail in Illinois for six months on suspicion of being an illegal immigrant. As it turns out, Moreno was a U.S. citizen.
It is suspected that thousands of people (suspected to be illegal immigrants) are held beyond the periods allowed by law to verify their respective statuses. Essentially, once the detainer elapses (within 48 hours) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) does not take custody of the person held, he or she must be released. However, local law enforcement agencies may not understand their responsibilities in releasing them, or they choose to disregard the law. In other circumstances, a U.S. citizen may have a similar (or same) name as an illegal immigrant, and this will trigger a detainer.
This can be especially problematic since detainers are not arrest warrants (which require probable cause) or direct commands that initiate deportation proceedings. So the people subject to these requests are not necessarily in violation of the law. Nevertheless, their liberty is threatened along with other important elements of their lives (i.e. job status, financial responsibilities, child care).
Those who have attempted to seek redress have experienced significant legal roadblocks on the federal level. However, the recent ruling may remove these obstacles. To learn more about options for those being held under improper detainers, see our page on deportation and removal.
Source: Fox News Latino, "Suit against immigration detainers to go forward," Dec. 4, 2012