ACLU Lawsuit Spotlights Sonoma County Sheriff and ICE for Unlawful Detentions and Racial Profiling of Latinos

Echoes of Arizona in Lawsuit Asserting Sonoma Sheriff Exceeded Local Authority in Immigration-Related Arrests

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SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge in San Francisco issued an order Friday that an American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California (ACLU-NC) lawsuit charging unlawful collaboration between the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department and the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to unlawfully target, arrest, and detain Latinos in Sonoma County can move forward.  

"As the nation repudiates Arizona's racial profiling law, we continue to challenge the same type of profiling in our own backyard," said Julia Harumi Mass, ACLU-NC staff attorney. "No matter where they happen, violations of fair and common-sense legal protections like due process put all U.S. residents at risk – citizen and non-citizen alike."

The lawsuit charges that the Sonoma Sheriff's department and its officers have collaborated with ICE to stop and search people who appear to be Latino, interrogate them about their immigration status based on their perceived race, and detain them in the County jail without lawful authority. The Sheriff's Department and ICE have failed to notify individuals who they have targeted of their rights under the law and the charges against them, among other violations of due process.

The judge considered Sonoma County Sheriff's Department and ICE motions for reconsideration of a March 10, 2010 ruling that allowed the plaintiffs to seek evidence in support of their constitutional and statutory claims.  Leaving in place an unchallenged legal ruling that the Sonoma County Sheriff's and ICE's use of immigration detainers was not per seunlawful, this order gives the green light to plaintiff Committee for Immigrant Rights of Sonoma County's claims that the County and ICE are violating equal protection, due process, search and seizure, and statutory requirements in their use of immigration detainers to arrest persons on suspected civil—as opposed to criminal—immigration violations and hold them in the County jail without criminal charges.

"Public safety and crime fighting suffer when we overburden local and state law enforcement agencies with federal immigration authority," said Richard Coshnear of the Committee for Immigrant Rights of Sonoma County, a group devoted to educating the public about immigrants' legal rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. "Instead of making our communities safer, the Sheriff's actions distract deputies from their crime-fighting duties, create a climate of fear, and decrease the willingness of residents to report crimes."

Legal documents:

Order Re Motions for Reconsideration

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