Las Vegas police suspend federal immigration holds at jail
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Las Vegas police have suspended a program let local jailers detain immigrants at the request of federal authorities, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said Wednesday, following a court ruling in California that the American Civil Liberties Union said could have a similar effect in other states.
The halt to the 287(g) program by the largest police agency in Nevada followed a Sept. 27 ruling by U.S. District Judge André Birotte Jr. in Los Angeles.
It applies to states that do not explicitly authorize civil immigration arrests using detainers and bars U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement from issuing requests called “detainers” based solely on database records searches that could be unreliable.
“Nevada does not have a statute authorizing an arrest for a civil immigration violations,” Lombardo, the elected head of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, said in a department news release.
“The ruling can be seen as a setback,” Lombardo said, noting that it can be appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
But effective Tuesday, police covering most of a city and county with 2.2 million residents and 40 million tourists a year “must cease honoring ICE detainers,” the sheriff said.
“LVMPD will continue to work with ICE at the Clark County Detention Center in removing persons without legal status who have committed violent crimes,” the statement said.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement cross-checks jail rosters around the U.S. with federal nationality and immigration status databases. When it detects a person is unauthorized to be in the U.S., it issues a detainer asking the jailers to hold the person until he or she can be taken into immigration custody.
Advocates say electronic databases can contain errors and lead to false accusations that someone is in the U.S. illegally.
Birotte cited ICE data finding that nearly 800 detainers out of almost 13,000 were explicitly lifted in nine months ending February 2016 because the person was a U.S citizen “or otherwise not subject to removal.”
Las Vegas police handle the Clark County jail, with nearly 3,100 beds. It is the largest but not the only lockup in southern Nevada.
Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse reported 676 people were turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody from jails in Clark County last year.
The sheriff’s decision doesn’t change policy at Las Vegas city jail, Henderson Detention Center or any other jail in the state, said activist Bliss Requa-Trautz, director of the Arriba! Las Vegas Workers Center.
Professor Michael Kagan, director of the Immigration Clinic at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, called the suspension of the 287(g) program significant in a metropolitan area with one of the highest populations of undocumented residents in the nation, about one of every 14 people.
“This decision goes to the heart of immigration enforcement, because most people in Las Vegas who are arrested by ICE are actually handed over by local jails,” Kagan said. “The 287(g) program is the largest source if those ICE arrests, about 82%.”
Hispanics and Latinos make up more than 27% of the Nevada population, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.
Kagan and Requa-Trautz said they think that although the program is suspended, Las Vegas police jailers might still notify federal officials about release times of people sought in immigration cases.