Judge Permits Legal Challenge to Miami-Dade’s Detainer Policy

People demonstrating with posters in favor of immigrant rights

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (Jan. 17, 2018) – Federal judge Kathleen Williams is permitting a legal challenge to Miami-Dade County’s policy on detainers to proceed, despite a motion by the county to dismiss the case. Under the county’s detainer policy, people suspected of civil immigration violations are locked up in county jail at the request of immigration authorities. The suit, filed on behalf of an 18-year-old United States citizen, asks Miami-Dade County and County Mayor Carlos Gimenez for monetary damages. The lawsuit was filed by the University of Miami School of Law’s Immigration Clinic, Kurzban, Kurzban, Weinger, Tetzeli & Pratt, P.A., and the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida,

“The court’s decision yesterday to permit the lawsuit go forward counts as a victory among the sanctuary city litigation taking place across the country,” said Rebecca Sharpless, attorney for Creedle and director of the Immigration Clinic at Miami Law. “Mixing our criminal justice and civil immigration law systems is not immune from federal court review. The county is on the hook when it detains people for ICE.”

The lawsuit challenges Miami-Dade County’s policy of detaining people beyond the end of their criminal custody solely for a suspected civil immigration violation and argues that the policy violates the U.S. Constitution, including the prohibition against unlawful seizures under the Fourth Amendment and the guarantee of due process under the Fourteenth Amendments, according to the filing. Florida law also prohibits jail officials from detaining people for civil immigration purposes.

Garland Creedle was jailed at Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center after police arrested him during a domestic dispute. Creedle paid his bond shortly after he was arrested, but county jail officials failed to release him and instead held him for immigration officials. No criminal charges were ever filed against Creedle.

Miami-Dade County has been detaining people in jail for federal immigration enforcement officials ever since President Trump threatened in January to cut off funding for cities deemed “sanctuary cities.” After the County Commissioners voted in February to collaborate with immigration authorities, however, the Trump Administration clarified that only cities that violate federal law would be at risk of losing federal money. Although the County no longer faces the loss of federal funding, the Mayor and Commission have not reconsidered their position on immigration detainers.

Creedle was born in Honduras to a U.S. citizen father and has been a U.S. citizen from birth. Immigration authorities have been aware of Creedle’s U.S. citizenship since 2015 when they filed a motion to terminate immigration court proceedings against Creedle because he is a U.S. citizen.

Other U.S. cities — large and small — have vowed to continue to keep local law enforcement separate from immigration enforcement, including Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Denver, San Francisco, Syracuse, and Washington, D.C.

For more information contact Rebecca Sharpless, Immigration Clinic, University of Miami School of Law at rsharpless@law.miami.edu