SAN MIGUEL COUNTY – Following a recent decision made by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters announced on Monday that his office will no longer hold anyone suspected of being illegally in the U.S. solely on federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests.
Up until Masters’ decision on Monday, people, who were arrested by the sheriff’s office for and thought to be citizens of another country without documentation were subject to ICE detention. According to Masters, while the suspect was allowed to post bond for release in relation to the crime allegedly committed, he or she could still be detained for up to 48 hours if ICE agents authorized the hold. ICE agents could then arrest and take custody of the suspect.
Now, The San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office will not hold suspects pursuant to ICE detainer requests unless the federal agency files an arrest warrant signed by a U.S. Magistrate.
“If they deserve to be federally detained, that’s fine, but let’s have a warrant or federal affidavit where a judge says they have probable cause to detain them,” Masters said on Tuesday.
According to Masters, an estimated 30-40 people a year for the past 10 years were detained under the old policy.
His policy changes comes on the heels of a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit decision last March that ruled states and localities are not required to imprison people based on federal detainer requests and may share liability in wrongful immigration detentions. In Galarza v. Szalczyk, a Pennsylvania county jail was found liable for damages for holding an American citizen on an ICE detainer that had been issued in error by the ICE officer.
“After I read the case, I realized how bad it was,” Masters said. “The fellow that was arrested and detained after he posted bond was a U.S. citizen. It is clear in my mind if there had been judicial review, they would have realized he was a U.S. citizen. There was no probable cause to hang on to him for being an illegal alien. For some reason, the federal government has allowed that policy to continue.”
Masters said he’s notified ICE of the policy change and feels his decision is not only the right thing to do following the federal court ruling but that it also falls in line with the 4th Amendment and the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“All persons physically inside San Miguel County, regardless of their nationality, are protected by the 4th Amendment of the Constitution which protects people against unreasonable seizure of their person and that warrants must be based on probable cause and supported by oath or affirmations of detaining officers,” he said. “Court cases based on the 10th Amendment and cited in the Galarza decision clearly prohibit the federal government from commandeering local sheriffs to enforce federal regulations.”
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, a number of states, counties and cities across the U.S. have adopted laws or policies that limit their involvement with ICE detainers. Masters said he knew of more sheriffs in Colorado that are considering policy changes as well.
“If it’s right, it’s right and this sounded wrong to me,” Masters said. “If I am holding someone, I am not going to hold them without a process.”