New Orleans Will Stop Detaining Immigrants

Tuesday, 13 Aug 2013 12:10 PM

By Lisa Barron

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The New Orleans parish sheriff has stopped complying with requests from federal immigration authorities to detain people suspected of being in the U.S. illegally.

Under the new policy, outlined in filings that accompanied a legal settlement in federal court, all Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention requests, except when a person is being held on specific felony charges, will be rejected, reports The New York Times.

Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman is also requiring federal immigration agents to notify a detainee's lawyer before any interview concerning an ICE investigation. The policy also prohibits agents from entering certain parts of the jail without a criminal warrant or court order.

Jennifer Rosenbaum, legal director for the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice, told the Times that the city's policy, the first of its kind in the South, "very clearly locks ICE out of the jail."

"It shows the consensus that has been reached citywide," she added.

In May, the New Orleans City Council demanded that Gusman stop keeping immigrants in jail just because federal officials suspect they might be here illegally.

"That has to stop. At a time in which we are arguing about money for the jail, it makes no sense that we're spending money on holding people in jail improperly," Councilman James Gray said at the time.

According to the Times, the new policy, which went into effect last month, was enacted while the Orleans Parish Prison was under investigation by the Justice Department for allegations of widespread constitutional violations.

Federal officials reportedly found that jail staffers who were supposed to track detention requests appeared to rely on memory or handwritten notes and could not communicate with detainees in Spanish.

That finding was among many that led to a consent decree demanding major jail improvements. The consent decree ordered the creation of a system to manage detainers on certain suspects, but the City Council resolution ordered Gusman not to honor detainers at all.

The new policy is similar to those that have been implemented since 2011 in several parts of the country, including the cities of Chicago, New York , Washington, D.C., and the state of Connecticut.

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