Sheriffs around the nation are openly rejecting the Obama administration policy of holding noncitizens who are accused or convicted of crimes for extra time, which for years has enabled the federal government to begin deportation proceedings for thousands of immigrants.
The local decisions are limiting the Obama administration’s ability to enforce immigration laws and could significantly decrease the number of immigrants deported each year.
The phenomenon started this spring, after a federal judge in Oregon ruled that a sheriff there had violated one immigrant woman’s civil rights by holding her in the county jail solely at the request of federal agents. Almost immediately, sheriffs across the state started refusing to honor the policy, which asks them to hold undocumented inmates without probable cause for a criminal violation, a process known as a detainer.
Now, dozens of sheriffs are doing the same: releasing noncitizen offenders who have served their time rather than holding them longer on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security. For years, the administration has asked them to hold such people for up to 48 hours after they were scheduled for release, giving Immigration and Customs Enforcement extra time to investigate whether they could be deported for immigration violations.