Big news out of Hennepin County, Minnesota’s most populous county: Sheriff Rich Stanek and County Attorney Mike Freeman announced that Hennepin County will no longer honor Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) requests to detain people.
Hennepin County joins Ramsey County, its next-door neighbor, which instituted a similar policy in May.
ICE makes a detainer request when it identifies an individual in local custody it believes is in the United States without authorization, and asks the local law enforcement agency to hold the person until ICE can take the person into custody. These requests are not mandatory, and enforcing them can lead to violations of detained individuals’ constitutional rights. In many cases, individuals being detained and deported have no criminal record or have been arrested for minor crimes. Despite a probability that some arrests are unconstitutional, immigrants are transferred to ICE before any criminal proceedings are held; as a result, there are no reviews of the constitutionality of the initial arrests.
The Advocates for Human Rights recently released its groundbreaking report Moving from Exclusion to Belonging: Immigrant Rights in Minnesota, based on two years of interviews and fact-finding. Immigrants and advocates across Minnesota told of people detained and deported because of detainer requests. “One family, they were stopped for no reason,” reported one legal service provider. “Dad and son were referred to ICE. Local police made the stop, but there was never even a ticket.”
One advocate shared a police report involving a client who local police pulled over for not using a turn signal. The police report described how, when the driver failed to produce a valid Minnesota driver’s license and was unable to communicate in English, the officer called federal immigration officials. “I advised [them] of the situation… [and] the federal immigration officer advised me that [the driver] is illegal and he wants her held for deportation,” the police report stated. The police report lists charges of no proof of insurance, no driver’s license, and illegal entry.
Another person shared the story of an acquaintance stopped for expired license tabs while driving home from work. “He was picked up, taken to the county jail, and deported two weeks later,” this person said.
In a similar incident, a public defender described a situation in which a Latino individual who, after parking his car, was walking toward a restaurant when a patrol officer stopped him in his tracks and asked him for identification. The officer made no allegations of any violation of motor vehicle operation or suspicion of any criminal activity. When the individual failed to produce a valid Minnesota driver’s license, the officer arrested him, booked him into the county jail, and turned him over to ICE.
There is also the report of an individual who parked on the wrong side of the street to jump-start a friend’s car. The police stopped and asked him for identification. When he presented a Mexican matricula consular, he was arrested. He was booked into jail, interviewed by ICE under the Criminal Alien Program, and placed in deportation proceedings. The individual had no criminal history and no criminal charges were brought against him.
A legal service provider recounted the time a van leaving a work place was followed by a county sheriff. The law enforcement official pulled the van over and asked everyone inside for identification. While there allegedly was an arrest warrant for the driver, all of the passengers were turned over to ICE for questioning and placed in removal proceedings.
The Advocates welcomes the actions of Hennepin County and Ramsey County to join movement of ending cooperation with ICE in this regard. Other communities―in Minnesota and across the United States – are strongly encouraged to follow suit.
By: Madeline Lohman, program associate with The Advocates for Human Rights’ Research, Education and Advocacy Program and a major contributor to Moving from Exclusion to Belonging: Immigrant Rights in Minnesota Today.