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Dallas County Fights for Dismissal of Lawsuit Filed by Immigrant Inmates

handcuffs-964722_640After a group of 16 immigrant inmates in Dallas County, Texas recently filed a lawsuit for alleged long immigration holds after posting bail, county officials are fighting back, saying that suit lacks a viable claim and should therefore be dismissed.

Acting as representative plaintiff, Arturo Mercado sued Dallas County and its sheriff, Lupe Valdez, in Federal Court last October 26, pointing out that under the law, they should only have been detained for 48 hours on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement holds after posting bail, not several days or months.

In the lawsuit, the group says that the practice of holding immigrants for extended periods defeats the entire purpose of posting bail, making it a “futile exercise for those with immigration holds,” as it prevents immediate release. The immigrant group also claims the county violated their Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

In response, Sheriff Valdez and Dallas County filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit last December 18, arguing that the inmates’ claims of civil rights do not have a viable claim and that Valdez is protected by qualified immunity.

As for the plaintiffs’ claim of no due process, the county points out that the immigration holds don’t actually meet the criteria of “shocking the conscience” to a point that it “violates the decencies of civilized conduct.”

The county also refutes claims of Fourth Amendment (unreasonable seizures) violations. In their 28-page motion, the county says that in this instance, the plaintiffs’ alleged improper pretrial detention can be considered as ‘seizures,’ and are therefore part of ‘specific protections of the Fourth Amendment.’ This effectively invalidates a separate claim for lack of due process.

Furthermore, Dallas County disputes the immigrant group’s claim that they were held after posting bail due to immigration detainers in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

In its motion, the county states that the plaintiffs failed to identify any facts and legal authority to prove that Sheriff Valdez or Dallas County had the authority to allow the immigrant inmates to post bonds in relation to the criminal charges filed against them. The county urges the court to take note that only the presiding judge has the authority to set bonds for individuals with pending state criminal charges against them.

The county goes on to say that even if federal officials issued federal detainers without probable cause, the plaintiffs would be unable to make claims of any sort, as there is no allegation that the detainers were invalid in the first place.

The plaintiffs filed the lawsuit a month after Sheriff Valdez decided Dallas County would disregard ICE hold requests for inmates with minor offenses. This change in policy would result in Valdez coming under fire from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for implementing “sanctuary-city policies” the state would not tolerate.

If you or anyone you know is faced with a similar situation and wants to be appraised of their rights, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the immigration lawyers of Lyttle Law Firm. Visit our website or call our offices at 512-215-5225 to schedule a consultation.