WASHINGTON -- Immigrant advocates are celebrating an appeals court ruling this week over local enforcement of federal immigration laws, but the ruling is prompting a backlash from leaders in Frederick County, Md.
A 4th Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals panel in Richmond ruled Wednesday that sheriff's deputies violated a Salvadoran woman's Fourth Amendment rights in 2008 when they arrested her on a civil warrant for "immediate deportation." The decision revives Roxana Orellana Santos' lawsuit.
"We hold that, absent express direction or authorization by federal statute or federal officials, state and local law enforcement officers may not detain or arrest an individual solely based on known or suspected civil violations of federal immigration law," Judge James Wynn wrote for the court.
Frederick County Board of Commissioners President Blaine Young disagrees with the ruling, which blocks local law enforcement authorities from making arrests on civil immigration warrants unless a federal agency specifically tells them to.
"If this decision stands, in every county in Maryland, or in the region, officers will be trained that a civil warrant for immigration is not an arrestable offense," Young says
Thursday, the board passed a resolution supporting the sheriff's department.
Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins declined to comment on the ruling. He is independently elected, and has campaigned on a tough local stance against illegal immigrants.
The court says local law enforcement can detain or arrest someone for criminal violations of immigration law "so long as the seizure is supported by reasonable suspicion or probable cause and is authorized by state law."
The U.S. Supreme Court noted in 2012 when it overturned Arizona's tougher local enforcement of federal immigration law that "as a general rule, it is not a crime for a removable alien to remain present in the United States."
In this case, Orellana Santos was eating lunch behind the restaurant where she worked when two deputies came up to her. After several questions from the deputies, she showed them her Salvadoran identification. The officers told her to stay put while they had dispatchers run her name through a national criminal database, and the civil immigration warrant came up.
The appeals court says that was not enough for Santos to be held, since Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials did not tell Frederick County to detain her until well after she had already been taken to jail.
Immigrant advocates who have helped Santos with her case hope the ruling will ease the worries of people living in Maryland and Virginia who have violated immigration laws.
"We hope that policing agencies across Maryland take this decision, and the liability that may flow from similar acts, very seriously," Gustavo Torres, executive director of CASA de Maryland, said in a statement after the decision.
Frederick County is the only jurisdiction in Maryland that has entered into a 287(g) agreement with the federal government that trains deputies and jail staff to check the immigration status of everyone who is arrested and brought to the county detention center.
The other jurisdictions are part of the secure communities program which focuses on people who are in the country illegally and have criminal convictions, repeat violations or fail to appear at immigration hearings.
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