MIAMI, FL - Persistent errors in ICE’s detainer system may have resulted in illegal holds being placed on dozens, and possibly hundreds, of U.S. citizens in Miami, according to a report published today by the ACLU of Florida. The report, “Citizens on Hold: A Look at ICE’s Flawed Detainer System in Miami-Dade County,” finds that, since 2017, ICE has targeted over 400 people who were listed as U.S. citizens in County records. Many of these detainers where subsequently canceled--presumably after ICE determined its targets were in fact U.S. citizens.
Based on these records, ICE appears to be asking Miami-Dade County to jail a number of U.S. citizens every month, even though citizens can’t be deported or held by ICE.
The report’s findings come as the Florida Legislature is considering a bill, Senate Bill 168, which would require Florida law enforcement agencies to comply with every detainer request they receive from ICE. Miami-Dade County's data shows that SB 168 could further subject large numbers of U.S. citizens each year to illegal arrests and the threat of deportation.
“Florida should not be forcing its police to participate in ICE’s broken detainer system. Miami’s detainer records are deeply disturbing and should make other localities think twice before agreeing to ICE’s requests,” said Amien Kacou, staff attorney at the ACLU of Florida. “It would be unconscionable for our state government to compel local officials to hold U.S. citizens for ICE.”
The report comes on the heels of three lawsuits that have recently been filed against Florida authorities for holding people on detainers. Two cases were brought by U.S. citizens — Garland Creedle and Peter Sean Brown — who were held for ICE by Miami-Dade and Monroe County respectively. The third case is a class action against Miami-Dade County.
“Under SB 168, lots of Floridians would be funneled into the deportation system,” said Kara Gross, legislative director of the ACLU of Florida. “Because of Miami’s detainer data, we now know that ICE is frequently asking police in Florida to violate citizens constitutional rights. Does the state really want law enforcement doing that?”
Among the key findings in the report:
- Miami’s data shows a remarkably high number of detainers issued in a short period of time for people the County identified as U.S. citizens. Between February 2017 and February 2019 ICE sent 420 detainer requests for people who were listed as U.S. citizens in Miami’s records, which means nearly 4 such requests every single week.
- These detainers were primarily aimed at Latino and African-American citizens—ranging in age from 19 to 60 and over.
- Miami’s records also show that ICE cancelled 83 of those detainer requests. But ICE often fails to cancel detainers for U.S. citizens, including in Miami and other Florida counties, meaning the total number of U.S. citizens the agency targeted likely exceeds this figure.
Key recommendations in the report:
- Floridians should oppose bills like Senate Bill 168, which aim to prohibit local law enforcement agencies from placing any limit on their compliance with detainers and would, therefore, amplify the consequences of ICE’s mistakes.
- State and local law enforcement agencies should avoid holding people based on ICE detainers, and should instead focus their limited resources on protecting public safety.
- If state and local law enforcement agencies choose to hold people on ICE detainers, they should require a judicial certification of probable cause, to safeguard against the unconscionable risk of error in ICE’s detainer and warrant practices.
- Before holding any person on an ICE detainer, state and local law enforcement agencies should give them an opportunity to contest the basis for the detainer, and the agencies should immediately investigate any indications that the person is not subject to removal.
The report is available at: https://www.aclufl.org/en/citizensonhold