Maryland's top lawyer is advising local jails that they should not honor requests from federal officials to hold people suspected of immigration violations for up to 48 hours past their release date.
The guidance from Attorney General Brian Frosh says local jails should only hold suchpeople longer when immigration officials present a warrant signed by a judge. Otherwise, he cautioned, the jails could be sued for unlawful detention under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution.
The document is not an order; instead, it provides advice for local officials to consider when making decisions about their jail and policing policies.
The local immigrant-rights group CASA applauded Frosh.
"We think it's very helpful and necessary," said Nick Katz, CASA's senior manager of legal services. "We appreciate that he issued this. We hope that law enforcement agencies read it and comply with the recommendations that he makes."
Lt. Dan Lasher is director of operations for the Allegany County Detention Center and president of the Maryland Correctional Administrators Association. He said most local jails do not honor detainer requests from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
Lasher said correctional officers don't want to "let someone go who is of the criminal element. But without a warrant, there's just no basis to do it."
Baltimore's jail, which is run by the state, does not honor ICE detainer requests without a judicial warrant, so Frosh's guidance won't affect the jail's policies, said state corrections spokesman Gerard Shields.
For the first time, Frosh's advice addresses partnerships in which local law enforcement officials are trained by the federal government and become deputized to carry out certain federal immigration duties.
Known as 287(g) programs, for the portion of federal law that authorizes them, they've come under fire from advocates for immigrants and civil liberties.
Frosh's guidance notes that it's permissible for counties to join 287(g) programs, but cautions that the federal government doesn't necessarily pay for them. And the programs have the potential to open the door to illegal racial profiling, Frosh wrote.
"The three Republican members of the County Council are trying to frankly grandstand the issue in defiance, now, of the attorney general's opinion," said Kamenetz, a Democrat. "I think that they should withdraw their bill."
Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins said all people booked in his jail are given the same paperwork asking about their country of birth and citizenship status. Frosh said that's fine, but if the 287(g) program expands into one involving patrol officers — a change the Trump administration has expressed interest in — there is a "greater danger" of improper racial profiling.