Government, Human Resources, and Law

Lawsuit: County jails in Michigan shouldn't work with ICE

August 25, 2017
| By AP |
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A Mexican native living in Wyoming has sued a Michigan sheriff's department, saying local authorities violate the rights of people they detain for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Juan Jose Romero-Lara, 32, filed the lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids against the Kent County Sheriff's Department. He said detaining him pending a transfer to ICE violates constitutional rights, especially when a judge issued a personal recognizance bond that would've released him.

Romero-Lara, from Mexico, has resided in the U.S. for about 15 years. He was arrested and charged with domestic violence in Michigan on Aug. 17. The next day, he was arraigned in Wyoming with the personal recognizance bond, but ICE asked the Kent County Jail to detain him until they picked him up Aug. 21.

Undersheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young said the jail cooperates with ICE as a professional courtesy.

“If they get us the documentation while the person is still in custody, we'll retain custody just like we do in cooperation with all criminal justice entities,” she said.

Romero-Lara's attorneys said that reason isn't enough to hold him.

“That's an unlawful seizure, that's false imprisonment, that's a violation of his due process rights,” said Robert Alvarez, an attorney for Romero-Lara.

The lawsuit asks a judge to declare the holds unconstitutional and order the jail to stop abiding by them.

ICE said refusing the holds could endanger the community and gets in the way of the agency doing its job.

“It takes careful planning and extensive resources to mitigate risks and make a safe apprehension in a community setting,” ICE officials said in a statement. “It is much safer for all involved — the community, law enforcement and even the criminal alien — if ICE officers take custody in the controlled environment of another law enforcement agency.”

Attorneys for Romero-Lara said they plan to make the case a class-action lawsuit to cover all who are detained, but are representing only one client for now.

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