- Associated Press - Saturday, July 26, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa’s largest jail has joined the growing list of local law enforcement agencies that are no longer honoring federal requests to hold suspected immigrants in jail without a warrant.

Polk County Sheriff Bill McCarthy, whose agency oversees the county’s jail, issued the order in early June, The Des Moines Register reported (http://dmreg.co/1rHO19Z ) Saturday.

The 48-hour immigration detainers are issued to local law enforcement by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. They ask that immigrants who have been arrested be held for two days after they would normally be released to give federal officials time to initiate an investigation and take the person into custody for deportation, if necessary.

The practice is under scrutiny, and several agencies around the country have stopped complying with the requests.

The change in Polk County’s policy came in response to a push by the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, which contends the detentions violate Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. Several federal courts have agreed, with a federal appeals court in a Pennsylvania case and a federal judge in Oregon finding that the detainers are not binding and that local authorities who held people on an immigration detainer could be sued if they hold someone unconstitutionally.

McCarthy said the ACLU’s legal position makes sense in light of those court rulings.

“How (is U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) different than any other law enforcement agency?” McCarthy asked. “How are you authorized to ask us to hold somebody not authorized by the court?”

McCarthy’s decision came only days before a similar decision by the Hall County jail in neighboring Nebraska. The ACLU says other Nebraska counties are also considering moves to stop honoring the detainer requests.

Cost may have also been a factor in Polk County’s decision. For the first six months of this year, the jail held 40 people on immigration detainers not signed by a judge, the Register reported.

McCarthy said the jail gets no reimbursement for inmates held for the federal government without a warrant. The jail estimates it costs $95 a day to house an inmate held on a detainer.

The Polk County Jail will still hold immigrants suspected of being in the country illegally if the federal detainer is approved by a judge, or in situations where public safety is threatened, McCarthy said.

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com