Miami-Dade's ICE Detentions Illegal, Suit Says

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Miami-Dade County is violating immigrants' Fourth and Fourteenth amendment rights by detaining them on orders from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement without cause, according to a potential class action in Florida federal court announced on Monday.

The immigrants Miami-Dade has detained for ICE are ineligible for bond, house arrest or other diversion programs, meaning they are kept away from their families for charges as small as driving with a suspended license, the suit says. To make matters worse, they are being held only on those detainers, not because there is probable cause that they have committed a crime, according to the July 20 complaint.

"Miami-Dade County has taken it upon themselves to hand over immigrants with ICE detainers, including many first-time offenders," said Maria Rodriguez, the executive director of co-plaintiff the Florida Immigrant Coalition. "These people are being held for longer, are often unable to post bond or be reunited with their families. It doesn't matter how minor the offense is. Littering, loitering or driving without a license is all it takes to get deported. Regardless of what they are charged with, the county has a duty to respect their constitutional rights."

The Florida Immigrant Coalition and WeCount Inc. joined the potential class of detained immigrants in bringing suit against the county and its corrections and rehabilitation department. They are alleging violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth amendments, along with state unlawful imprisonment laws and state constitutional search and seizure and due process protections.

The detentions started when President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Jan. 25, 2017, blocking federal funds for sanctuary cities. The next day, the county's Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez issued a directive telling the corrections department to comply with ICE detainer requests, even though county policy said the opposite, according to the suit.

That February, the county commission adopted a resolution ratifying the mayor’s directive, the complaint says. The policies continued even after courts decided that Trump couldn't withhold funding for sanctuary cities, according to the potential class.

"Miami-Dade County and the Miami-Dade Department of Corrections do not have independent authority to arrest individuals without a judicial warrant or probable cause that an individual has committed a crime," the complaint says.

The two named plaintiffs are both local business owners who have been detained under the policy.

"CFC" owns a local agriculture business and is a mother of eight. She got into a car accident in a parking lot on May 12 after shopping for groceries, when the people in the other car "jumped out of the vehicle and became aggressive" and told her to "go back to Mexico," the suit says. After the police were called, CFC was arrested for driving without a license and was not released, even after posting bond the same day, according to the complaint.

"SCC" owns a local landscaping company that employees about a dozen workers, which he has since had to shut down, the suit says. He was arrested for driving with an expired license, even though the state's laws wouldn't allow him to renew it, according to the complaint. SCC also paid his bond, set at $2, but was not allowed to be released, the suit says.

The potential class is seeking an injunction barring the county from complying with ICE detainer requests without a warrant or probable cause that a crime has been committed, a declaration that the board of commissioners' resolution is invalid and compensatory damages, among other relief.

Miami-Dade's attorney and representatives for the board of county commissioners and the corrections and rehabilitation department didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

The potential class is represented by Edward Soto, Pravin R. Patel, Corey D. Berman, Mark Pinkert and Nicole Comparato of Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP, Alana Greer and Oscar Londono of Community Justice Project Inc., and Rebecca Sharpless of the University of MIami School of Law's Immigration Clinic.

Counsel information for the county was not immediately available on Tuesday.

The case is C.F.C. et al. v. Miami-Dade County, Florida et al., case number 1:18-cv-22956, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

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