L.A. County Learns a Lesson from Clackamas County: ICE Warrants Can Get You Sued

By William Street, HD 40 Co-Leader

Clackamas County shows up in curious places. There we were on page 39 of 48 of CV 12-09012-AB (FFMx) Date February 7, 2018 DUNCAN ROY ET AL. V. COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES ET AL. This time it was L.A. County learning what we know: ICE warrants are voluntary and to honor them exposes the Sheriff’s Department to wrongful imprisonment lawsuits.

Clackamas County was one of the first counties nationally to learn this lesson. It cost us county taxpayers more than $100,000. Now L.A. County knows what we know.

ICE warrants are not criminal actions, they are civil actions. Overstaying a travel visa is a civil offense not a criminal one. Thus, there are no illegal immigrants in the U.S. In the words of the U.S. District Court:

“By its definition, probable cause can only exist in relation to criminal conduct. It follows that civil disputes cannot give rise to probable cause.” Allen v. City of Portland, 73 F.3d 232, 237 (9th Cir. 1995). “The Supreme Court has characterized deportation and removal proceedings as ‘civil in nature.'” Mercado v. Dallas County, Texas, 229 F. Supp. 3d 501, 511 (N.D. Tex. 2017) (citing Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356 (2010)); see also Melendres v. Arpaio, 695 F.3d 990, 1001 (9th Cir. 2012) (“[B]ecause mere unauthorized presence is not a criminal matter, suspicion of unauthorized presence alone does not give rise to an inference that criminal activity is ‘afoot.'”).

Clackamas DA John Foote

Our own Clackamas County District Attorney John Foote wants to change the Oregon law that prevents local law enforcement officials from using any resources to cooperate with ICE unless a warrant based on probable cause has been issued by a court. This Oregon State law simply serves to protect Oregon law enforcement from losing additional lawsuits, just as we here in Clackamas County lost.

Ending this so called “sanctuary provision” means DAs like our own will openly cooperate with illegal ICE warrants, and after hundreds of our neighbors are exposed to unnecessary risk and improper detainment, another lawsuit will be filed and another court will rule that once again we were liable for violating the Fourth Amendment rights of our neighbors. In other words, they were held unlawfully.

The DA’s job is to enforce the law equally, not to enforce the law as he wishes it existed. And not to enforce the law primarily on people of color, not to use public monies, our tax dollars, to violate the law because he may disagree with it.

We all understand the fear of “the other.” But the solution to this fear is not to ban the other, but to integrate the other into us and us into the other. In Clackamas County our agricultural community depends on the knowledge, skills, and abilities of migrant labor. They contribute to our economy in many ways. If in a regular job, they pay into Social Security with no hope of ever getting any return.

If we demonize them and ostracize them and teach them that any interaction with law enforcement will result in their families being broken up, then the crime they see, the crime that victimizes them, will go unreported, making us all less safe.

ICE is out of control. They lose one lawsuit after another, all for the same behaviors, and as of now, fail to alter their behavior so it is within the confines of the law. It must be difficult for old school law-and-order types to be on the wrong side of the law consistently.

And the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon is joining those who oppose ICE’s heavy handed operations here and elsewhere. But a vocal ACLU — which has upset our DA and a handful of others (though most do not openly oppose the sanctuary law) — is not going away.

This problem is visited upon us for reasons over which we seem to have no control. Stopping the mass migration from Latin America to the U.S. is simple.

After all, migrants come here to work, to find a way to support their families, who often stay behind in those Latin countries where economies are stymied by military juntas and corrupt regimes that the U.S. supports. Many migrants here they are badly exploited by shady employers who withhold Social Security from their paychecks, knowing the migrants will never see a dime of it.

And our current federal leadership would rather spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a wall instead of using it to promote education and a vibrant domestic economy. Helping those Latin countries thrive so they can provide employment for their own people means those folks wouldn’t feel forced to come here to work.

Too often, we ignore the cause of the problem and thus must grapple with the impacts of the resulting issues. Build a wall? Hardly. Ignore Oregon law you disagree with? Also not a very good idea.