- Associated Press - Thursday, October 2, 2014

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska’s most populous county announced Thursday that it has stopped honoring federal requests to hold immigrants in jail without a warrant.

The move sees Douglas County joining several others in the state and dozens of local agencies around the country in requiring a warrant for such holds, which have come under intense scrutiny from civil rights organizations. The American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska and Justice for Our Neighbors, a nonprofit immigrant advocacy group, have been pushing local authorities over the last year to stop the practice.

“This move by Douglas County will improve public safety by fostering trust between local law enforcement and immigrant communities,” said Shane Ellison, legal director for the Nebraska chapter of Justice for Our Neighbors.

The 48-hour immigration detainers are issued to local law enforcement by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Local authorities are asked to hold immigrants who have been arrested for two days after they would normally be released, so federal immigration officials can initiate an investigation and take people into custody for possible deportation, if necessary.

An analysis that Ellison’s group has done of such holdings in Nebraska shows there were 729 immigration holds issued in 2012 for Douglas County, where Omaha is located. That’s more than five times as many holds as any other Nebraska county, and it accounts for nearly a quarter of all the detainers in the state, Ellison said.

“This program has proved to be a failure in Nebraska, as over half of all ICE holds have been filed on individuals with no conviction at all,” Ellison said.

The practice has led to at least one lawsuit in Nebraska. The ACLU sued Sarpy County and the federal immigration agency on behalf of Ramon Mendoza, of Papillion, who was arrested in 2010 for misdemeanor traffic violations. The lawsuit says Mendoza, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was kept in jail for four days because officials wrongly suspected he was in the country illegally.



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