- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 18, 2014

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) - A New Mexico county along the U.S.-Mexico border says it will stop holding people in jail without charge at the request of federal immigration authorities.

The Dona Ana County Detention Center recently announced it would no longer honor requests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain people arrested on unrelated charges for 48 hours while agents investigated their immigration status.

The move comes after a federal appeals court ruled earlier this year that states and localities are not required to honor ICE “detainer” requests.

Immigrant rights groups lauded on Tuesday the decision and said it loosens disputed ties between local and federal law enforcement agencies.


Advocates also announced the settlement of a lawsuit against Dona Ana County involving two sisters who were detained for two months under an ICE “48-hour detainer” without being charged with an immigration violation.

As part of the settlement, the county’s insurance paid out $35,000 in Paso Del Norte Civil Rights Project’s legal fees and $10,000 to each woman.

“The most important thing here is that the county made the policy change,” said Jed Untereker, legal director of Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project. “That has real impact on the community. It’s good for the community, good for people who believe in civil rights.”

A spokesman for the county said County Manager Julia Brown made the decision to end ICE detainers based on the appeals court ruling and “ordered the change in policy independently of the lawsuit and in advance of the settlement.”

Since the county’s change last month, about 120 localities across the country have determined not to follow through on the ICE requests, taking steps to separate themselves and their missions from federal immigration enforcement, Untereker said.

Fernando Garcia, director of the Border Network for Human Rights, called the county’s reversal regarding ICE holds “a growing trend of good things in southern New Mexico.”

In April, Dona Ana County commissioners passed a measure asking for “clear policies” that ensure sheriff’s deputies steer clear of enforcing federal immigration law.