U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) often makes requests of county jails to hold undocumented individuals after they are supposed to be released even if they have not committed a crime. Recently, the Maryland attorney general sent letters to each county and state-run jail, saying that he believes this practice -- which ICE appears to use as a deportation tool -- violates the Fourth Amendment. In at least some of the cases, no verifiable probable cause exists for detaining them.
Numerous people were deported using these "detainers," despite the fact that their only offense was a civil one and they did not enter the country through the proper channels. Here in Maryland, the number comes to approximately 40 percent of all undocumented individuals. Sources say this is far greater than the average percentage across the country.
Within the state, Prince George's County accounted for over 40 percent of the number of people in Maryland deported because of the Secure Communities program -- which caused considerable controversy. Of that 40 percent, nearly 50 percent did not have a criminal record. Therefore, as of October 1, if ICE requests a detainer, agents are required to go before a judge and request a warrant. This would provide the probable cause needed to detain the individual.
This process is stricter than the one currently being used by Baltimore's state-run jail. The hope is that other counties in the state will follow suit in an effort to deter the deportation of individuals who do not have criminal records. Anyone who believes he or she is being detained without probable cause may benefit from the advice and assistance of someone familiar with the immigration court, along with federal and state laws.
Source: The Baltimore Sun, "Prince George's Co. to limit holding immigrants for the feds", John Fritze, Sept. 26, 2014