L.A. County Settles Immigrant Detention Suit for $14 Million

More  than  18,500  Victims   of   ICE  Holds  Were  Unlawfully Detained

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors today approved settlement of a class action lawsuit brought by immigrants who were unlawfully detained by the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department — sometimes for months — because of “ICE hold” requests from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The holds, also called “immigration detainers,” forced individuals to be held in county jails after they were legally entitled to be released. Pending approval by a federal judge, the settlement marks the end of the lawsuit Roy v County of Los Angeles originally filed in 2012.

During the time period covered by this settlement, Los Angeles County was responsible for holding more people in its jails on ICE detainers than any other county and most other states in the nation. The sheriff’s department agreed to stop the practice entirely in July 2014.

Co-counsels on the settlement are the civil rights law firm Kaye, McLane, Bednarski & Litt; the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California; the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON); and the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC).

“Let this settlement be a wake-up call to all those law enforcement agencies around the country that today continue to jail people unlawfully at ICE’s warrantless requests,” said Jennie Pasquarella, ACLU SoCal director of immigrants’ rights and senior staff attorney. “They should stop or be held liable in damages to all the people they’ve unlawfully detained.”

More than 18,500 people are entitled to compensation from the settlement covering detainers issued from October 2010 to June 2014, mostly during a period when the sheriff’s department was headed by Lee Baca, now serving a three-year prison term for undermining a federal investigation into the department.

“For years, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the largest law enforcement agency in the United States, callously denied immigrants constitutional protections that universally apply to all other jail detainees — unjustifiably holding them without cause as prisoners,” said Lindsay Battles, partner at Kaye, McLane, Bednarski & Litt. “This settlement holds the sheriff’s department accountable for thousands of unlawful incarcerations and provides a measure of compensation to every person injured by their unconstitutional policies.”

Under terms of the settlement each class member is eligible to receive from $250 up to $25,000,  based on how long they were held and other circumstances. Surplus funds, if any after class members are paid, will go to programs that provide legal representation to persons facing immigration consequences because of an arrest or conviction.

“For the past four years, ICE and the Trump administration have coerced, threatened, and defamed so-called sanctuary cities for declining to honor ICE’s illegal immigration detainers,” said Mark Fleming, associate director of litigation for the NIJC. “This settlement is a stark reminder to all law enforcement officials that cooperation with ICE’s illegal tactics risks profound financial liability to the communities they are sworn to serve.”  

There are three categories of class members in the settlement:

· Fourth Amendment Class: Immigrants detained by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department beyond the time they were due for release from criminal custody solely on the basis of ICE detainers.

· Equal Protection Class: Immigrants who were detained even through their money bail was low enough that they would have otherwise been released.

· No-Bail Class: Immigrants who were not granted bail because of an ICE hold. 

“This settlement will likely contribute to a growing trend where local jurisdictions are taking appropriate steps to kick ICE out of their prisons, jails, and courthouses, said Chris Newman, legal director at NDLON. “There is already an emerging consensus that ICE is a rogue law enforcement agency, a menace to public safety, and a serial civil rights violator, and it is now clear that its coercive practices expose local governments to financial liability as well.”

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