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News Opinion

Immigration police are arresting innocent people [Letter]

Thanks for your coverage of the ACLU's report on immigration detainers in Maryland ("ACLU criticizes Md. police on immigration enforcement," Nov. 19).

Unfortunately, the claim made by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that immigration detainers are issued only against people ICE has a legal basis to take into custody is false.

Nationally, between 2008 and 2012 at least 834 immigration detainer requests were lodged against U.S. citizens — people who are never properly the subjects of an immigration detainer.

The Maryland data also showed that between 2010 and 2012 at least six immigration detainers targeted individuals from Puerto Rico — who of course are also U.S. citizens.

These incidents seriously undermines the claim that ICE only issues detainers against individuals it has a legal basis for detaining, and it raises critical due process concerns about immigration detainers.

Another ICE spokesperson claims that persons targeted by immigration detainers are "dangerous criminals" who would otherwise be left on the street. That claim is completely undermined by the data, which shows that in Maryland the vast majority of immigration detainers are issued against persons charged only with traffic violations or minor offenses. The same is true nationwide.

Immigration detainer requests are issued at the sole discretion of a single administrative officer, without any kind of review, and therefore they cannot substitute for a proper determination of whether someone is potentially dangerous. That's what courts and the criminal justice system are for.

State and local facilities are holding individuals who are not deportable and who should never have been detained in the first place because local law-enforcement is being diverted from community policing to do ICE's job for it.

Sirine Shebaya

The writer is an immigrants' rights attorney with the ACLU of Maryland.

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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