DHS-ICE Illegally Detaining U.S. Citizens

A troubling report on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow show says DHS-ICE is increasingly detaining U.S. Citizens, something it has absolutely no legal authority to do. According to host Joy Reid who was subbing for the vacationing Maddow, this stems from a legally questionable practice currently in place in many U.S. counties where DHS-ICE places “detainers” on county jail inmates it suspects are either not in the U.S. legally, or even if here legally, are subject to deportation proceedings based on their criminal convictions. The Maddow segment focused on Peter Brown, a Philadelphia native who DHS-ICE almost mistakenly deported to Jamaica. For the record DHS-ICE has no legal authority to detain a U.S. citizen so any ICE detainer placed on a U.S. citizen is void on its face.

The full Maddow segment is available here but the relevant clip is below.

So for example if someone is convicted in Harris County Texas for say DWI, and jailed for say 6 months at the county jail, one of the preliminary issues that is determined by county jail officials is whether the inmate is a U.S. citizen. If it is determined that the inmate is not a U.S. citizen then DHS-ICE places a “detainer” on them essentially telling the Harris County jail officials to detain the said inmate for an extra 48 hours(2 days) to allow DHS-ICE to come and pick them up for deportation proceedings.

The problem with this policy is that it is prone to a lot of racial and ethnic profiling by county jail officials who often arbitrarily classify inmates who don’t “look like” or “speak like” Americans as non-citizens and thereby illegally subjecting them to DHS-ICE detainers. This is especially problematic in immigrant-rich cities like Houston which is home to many naturalized U.S. citizens who don’t “look like” or “speak like” Americans.

According to the Maddow segment, DHS-ICE apparently enters into contracts with county officials where they pay them an agreed sum for every inmate the county detains for them. It turns out however that in addition to this “detainer” policy being patently illegal as applied to U.S. citizens, it is also draining county tax dollars from the resultant lawsuits. In other words this “detainer” policy is ending up costing counties infinitely more money in lawsuits than the money DHS-ICE pays them to detain inmates for them. So in their zeal to push a “tough-on-immigration” agenda using the “detainers”, county officials(often Republican counties) are ending up wasting much needed tax dollars settling lawsuits brought by illegally detained U.S. citizens—a total travesty.

Bottom line as Yours Truly has said all along, Congress must step in and enforce some checks on DHS-ICE’s seemingly absolute powers. It seems as if at every turn DHS-ICE is violating the constitutional rights of poor immigrants whether that be through its evil family separation policy, illegal surveillance of legal immigrants or now illegally detaining U.S. citizens. A wise man once said, “power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.” It’s about time the U.S. Congress reigned in DHS-ICE’s absolute power.

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