ICE issued false detainer requests for hundreds of U.S. citizens at a Miami jail, ACLU finds


Over the span of two years, federal immigration officials issued 420 false "detainer requests" to U.S. citizens being held at the Miami-Dade County jail, according to a report released Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.

The report claims the database used by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE, mistakenly identified inmates at the local jail as potential candidates for deportation, despite Miami's own records indicating they were citizens.

From there, the agency issued a "detainer requests" to the jail, which means ICE is interested in taking custody of an inmate that they believe to be in the U.S. illegally.

It's up to local jails whether to abide by the requests. If the local jail elects to do so, undocumented inmates are held for 48 additional hours after their time in state custody ends to give immigration authorities time to pick them up.

The ACLU report, however, points to 420 cases from 2017 to 2019 in which detainers were issued for people who were listed as U.S. citizens.

ICE later canceled 83 of those detainer requests because the agency "determined, after the fact, that its targets were in fact U.S. citizens," the ACLU report argues. It's unclear how many people were actually detained in the process.

"These detainers had targeted apparent U.S. citizens – mostly Latino and African American males – ranging in age from 19 to 60 and over," the ACLU writes in the report.

"These errors can have profound consequences, both for the people who are wrongly held and for the state and local agencies that hold them," the report says. "As recent cases illustrate, U.S. citizens have been kept in jail away from their jobs and families, and they have faced the terror of being told they would soon be deported from their only home. … If Miami's experience is representative, ICE may now be targeting hundreds of U.S. citizens each year in states like Florida."

A spokesperson at the ACLU tells Orlando Weekly that numbers in Orange County were not among the data obtained in a lawsuit.

ICE's policy doesn't allow deportation officers to detain U.S. citizens.

A spokesperson at ICE declined to comment due to pending litigation.

Immigration is an issue that's never far out of Florida's purview.

Earlier this month, though the Sunshine State has never actually established so-called "sanctuary cities," Republican state lawmakers doubled down (once again) in their latest attempt to pass a ban on them.

The issue reared its ugly head, again, last month when state Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, proposed a bill that would ensure local governments comply with requests from federal immigration authorities.

In his first State of the State address in early March, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis voiced his enthusiasm for the legislation.

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