A federal district court judge in eastern Washington ruled yesterday that Yakima County must immediately remove an immigration hold on an individual which prevents him from posting bail, thus violating his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizures. The Court found that the County had no authority to place an immigration hold against persons based on a civil immigration “warrant” – an administrative form issued by federal immigration officers. In an oral ruling after a lengthy hearing in Spokane, Judge Salvador Mendoza, Jr. emphasized that the Fourth Amendment requires that an arrest warrant must be approved by a neutral and detached judge – not by an employee of the executive branch. The ruling has wide implications as similar policies are in effect across the nation.
Columbia Legal Services and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) represent the individual who has been held in Yakima County jail on state charges since May 3, 2017. Despite a state court order allowing the client to be released on bail, he has been unable to post bail because of the immigration hold placed by Yakima County. The County’s internal policy provides for county officials to enter an immigration hold any time federal immigration officers send them an administrative “warrant,” and in effect block any state court order permitting release on bail.
“The County should not engage and is enjoined from acting in any way that prevents [the individual] from posting bond,” said Judge Mendoza in an oral ruling requiring the County to immediately comply. Attorneys for the plaintiff applauded the ruling.
“The U.S. Constitution guarantees all people the right to liberty unless the government has demonstrated probable cause to take away that fundamental right,” said Bernardo Cruz, attorney with the Working Families Project at Columbia legal Services. “Jails in Yakima County and across the nation cannot deny a person’s constitutional right to liberty based on a form filled out in some remote cubicle without any independent judicial review. That simply does not pass constitutional muster.”
The Court also rejected the federal government’s argument that it should simply accept an immigration employee’s determination of probable cause as a basis for the County to keep people in custody.
“Yakima County and other State and local officials do not have authority to enforce civil immigration laws,” said Matt Adams, NWIRP’s legal director. “This is a crucial ruling, not only for our client and his family, but for all immigrants who have been wrongly held in County jails based on federal administrative ‘warrants’ and unlawful immigration holds.”