Montgomery Sheriff’s Office Clarifies Detention Policy
Advocacy groups complained policy would give federal agents time to seize immigrants
The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office has changed wording in an internal policy after a complaint from civil rights groups that it could allow authorities to unlawfully keep immigrants in custody.
The ACLU of Maryland and CASA de Maryland, an immigration-rights advocacy nonprofit, said the policy could allow jailers to hold people who had outstanding federal detainers for three hours or longer after they had been released by a judge.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement can issue detainers for immigrants arrested on criminal charges and asks local authorities to call them before the person is released, a practice that has been under scrutiny across the country.
“There is no just rationalization for keeping an individual after being released by a judge – so that ICE agents can come in and detain them,” CASA Executive Director Gustavo Torres said in a statement when the groups challenged the policy. “We are against this type of conduct which risks Fourth Amendment and due-process violations.”
Sheriff’s Office Capt. Max Uy said advocates “keyed in” on the three-hour holding stipulation, prompting the office to adjust the phrasing to “normal processing time.”
“We were concerned with the interpretation by some of these groups,” Uy said. “It’s a little misleading. When we took a look at it, we removed that timeframe.”
Processing times vary depending on how many cases are ongoing and the number of people in custody, among other factors, Uy said.
“The intent and the practice was not that somebody could be released and then we could now hold them for three hours,” Uy said. “That certainly wasn’t the case, but that might have been interpreted that way.”
The office handles about one ICE detainer release a month, Uy said. It had nine during the period it tracked the instances last year, and two so far in January 2019.
The update to the policy, first reported Thursday by the Daily Record, was made in late December.
“We applaud this new policy from the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office because it sets a much stronger standard for the treatment of immigrants that protects their constitutional right to due process,” ACLU Equal Justice Works Immigrants’ Rights Fellow Nick Steiner said in a statement.