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Immigration Reform Goes Local

April 27, 2014
Plain English Version

Discretion DropThe U.S. state governments are said to be “laboratories of democracy.” This means that states can try things, such as marriage equality, before the federal government does so.

Immigration reform is a good example of states in action. Some states have passed laws against undocumented immigrants. For example, Arizona and Alabama ordered the police to hold undocumented residents for no apparent reason. They made it harder for undocumented immigrants to work and to own things. They made it harder for their kids to go to school.

Other states have passed laws that help the undocumented. California, New York and Illinois have been in the forefront. They offer entry to state colleges. They are moving to issuing driver’s licenses. They provide access to legal counsel.

Documents issued by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) are called “detainers.” Detainers are part of the Secure Communities program.  Fingerprints of people booked by police are matched against federal information.

Local sheriffs are directed to hold people who ICE thinks are violating immigration laws or who have committed crimes. Police are ordered to hold them for up-to 48 hours.

ICE may think this person is a criminal.

Now a federal judge in Oregon has ruled that the detainers cannot be used to hold undocumented immigrants for no apparent reason. The judge said these detainers are not warrants or legal documents. The Sheriffs in Oregon said they would no longer enforce them.

An expert said, “The courts are finding detainers just a piece of paper.”

The Oregon ruling may affect many other places in the nation. Across the country there is a feeling that the use of detainers should be very limited. For example, the mayor of Philadelphia instructed his police to not hold people if there was only a detainer.

This is another example of our federal–state system in action.

Source: The New York Times                                                                                     April 18, 2014

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