A York County Jail inmate has an immigration detainer request placed on him. But despite a recent directive by the governor that all sheriffs obey such requests, York County Sheriff William King says he will not put taxpayers at risk of a costly lawsuit and he will not hold an inmate for possible deportation if he is released from jail by a judge.
An immigration detainer is a request that inmates be held up to 48 hours after they are scheduled to be released from custody to allow the Department of Homeland Security to take custody of such inmates.
On Tuesday, Gov. Paul LePage sent a letter to the sheriff’s in Maine’s 16 counties directing them to cooperate with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials if they make place an immigration detainer on an inmate.
“Under the authority granted to me by law, I am directing you to cooperate with federal immigration officials and follow the provisions of Executive Order 001-2011,” LePage told the sheriffs in a directive.
“Employees and officials of the State of Maine shall cooperate with employees and officials of the federal government on all matters pertinent to immigration, subject only to any limitations imposed by statutory law or by the Constitutions of Maine or the United States,” the order states.
According to a press release from the governor’s office, he issued the directive because “sheriffs have indicated that when served a detainer request from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials they will not hold the illegal alien without a warrant.” LePage threatens to remove from office any sheriff who doesn’t comply with his directive.
Based on lawsuits he’s read about, King said he doesn’t believe it’s legal to hold an inmate after they are released.
“I think LePage is wrong on this,” he said.
To hold an inmate after he or she has been released, King said, “is tantamount to arresting someone without probable cause.”
“We need probable cause of a crime,” he said, “not deportability.”
“Absent legal guidance and absent a command I’m not going to put the taxpayers at risk of a lawsuit,” King said.
He pointed to a number of lawsuits researched by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center such as an Oregon case in which the Federal District Court in Oregon ruled in 2014 that the detainer did not provide sufficient proof (probable cause) to allow the local jail to detain an inmate who should have been released on bail; and another case in which the Central District Court of California found that when a plaintiff was held after being ordered released because of an ICE detainer, that it constituted a warrantless arrest.
King is especially concerned about the issue, which he termed a “potential powder keg,” as an inmate in the Alfred jail has an immigration detainer on him.
Frank Falcedo, 29, of Lawrence, Massachusetts, was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to the United States when he was 6 or 7 with his mother. He said in an interview at the jail on Tuesday that he grew up in the U.S., and most of his family is in the U.S. including his three children.
“I don’t know the reason why” an immigration detainer was placed on him, said Falcedo. He said has a green card and is a permanent resident.
Falcedo is being held without bail on one count of unlawful trafficking of a scheduled drug and one count of unlawful possession of cocaine, both Class B felonies and two counts of operating without a license, a Class E misdemeanor.
Felony charges and/or convictions are potential reasons for deportation.
Although he wants to work with the federal government, King said, at this juncture he would not hold Falcedo on the basis of the immigrant detainer if he were released.
“I want to work with the feds, I do. I just don’t see the feds working with us,” he said.
He thinks the immigration office should start deportation proceedings while an inmate is still in custody.
“[If they do that], I have a legal document saying ‘You shall hold him,’ then I have no problem,” King said.
LePage states that any sheriff who doesn’t comply with his directive will be removed from office. He said he is granted that authority by Article IX, Section 10 of the Maine State Constitution. That section allows the governor to remove and replace a sheriff “Whenever the Governor upon complaint, due notice and hearing shall find that a sheriff is not faithfully or efficiently performing any duty imposed upon the sheriff by law.”
King noted that a complaint would need to filed before the governor could take action against a sheriff. He said the Maine Sheriffs Association has hired an attorney to look into the sheriffs’ rights under the law.