Group sues, saying Vegas jail wrongly detains immigrants

January 18, 2020 GMT

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A Nevada woman and a civil rights organization are accusing Las Vegas of violating the constitutional rights of people held at the city jail by detaining them after they have served their jail time and turning them over to federal immigration authorities.

Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund officials said during a rally Friday outside Las Vegas City Hall that the practice continued after a city announcement in late October that it was giving up cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement “detainers” at the jail.

Fund attorney Adrian Hernandez said that after checking dates on a list a list obtained through a public records request, the advocacy group believes at least five people were wrongly detained without warrants between October and mid-December. Names and identifiers of the 70 cases on the list were blacked out.

Alicia Ines Moya Garay, the plaintiff in the lawsuit, spent three weeks in federal custody in the summer of 2018. Hernandez said she had “a Fourth Amendment right to be free from prolonged detention with probable cause regardless of her immigration status.”

The complaint filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas names the city, its public safety chief and jail supervisor. It seeks unspecified monetary damages and a court order on behalf of the Arriba Las Vegas Worker Center prohibiting the city from cooperating with ICE.

City Hall was closed Friday. A city spokesman, Jace Radke, declined to comment about the lawsuit.

Garay, 28, used the name Moya. She said she was born in Mexico, has lived in Las Vegas for more than 15 years without legal permission and works to support two children. She declined to say how she is employed.

Choking back tears, she described her release into ICE custody after serving a 10-day sentence for driving past a red light. She said she felt jailers singled her and another woman out for questions about their immigration status because they were Hispanic, and she wasn’t told why she was held after she was supposed to have been released.

Moya was freed on a $2,000 bond in August 2018 pending a judge’s decision whether she will be deported to Mexico.

“Separating families is not the right thing to do,” she said.

The city’s announcement in October that the 1,100-bed city jail would not cooperate with ICE requests for warrantless detention of arrestees came shortly after Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo announced the 3,100-inmate Clark County Detention Center was suspending participation in the ICE 287(g) program.

Unlike the county, the city does not have a formal 287(g) agreement with federal authorities.

The sheriff, the elected head of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, had faced calls from the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada to act following a Sept. 27 ruling by a federal judge in California prohibiting the use of ICE hold requests in states that don’t have laws specifically authorizing civil immigration arrests.

Nevada has no such a law.

Lombardo promised the county jail would still cooperate with ICE in efforts to remove people without legal status who have committed violent crimes.

ICE officials said at the time that dropping participation in the program would make Clark County residents less safe. The agency has a regional center in Laguna Niguel, California, that cross-checks jail rosters with federal nationality and immigration status databases. It issues so-called detainers asking jailers to hold the person for 48 hours to be taken into federal custody.

Officer Aden OcampoGomez, a department spokesman, said Friday the 287(g) program remained suspended at the county jail pending a resolution of the California case.

Two other large city jails in Nevada — the Henderson Detention Center, with more than 500 beds in suburban Las Vegas, and the 1,300-bed Washoe County jail in Reno — do not take part in the 287(g) program.