MALDEF Las Vegas Sues ICE Over Immigration Detention

Las Vegas, Nev. (FOX5) – The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund has filed a lawsuit against Las Vegas and ICE over immigration detention.

An amended complaint filed by MALDEF and attorney Travis Buchanan, Esq. & Associates, PLLC of Las Vegas, is challenging ICE’s reliance on requests, known as immigration detainers, to extend a person’s detention in a local jail without a court hearing.

ICE detainers violate the Fourth Amendment’s right to lengthy detention without probable cause because the agency never reviews probable cause before a judge or impartial decision maker.

“ICE has long been complicit in violating the constitutional rights of immigrants under administrations of both political parties,” said Thomas Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel. “This lawsuit now calls out not only the jailers who illegally detained immigrants, but the federal parties who aided and abetted those violations.”

The Las Vegas Department of Public Safety, which runs the city jail, is also named in the lawsuit because it used ICE detainers to detain immigrants beyond the time period justified in state proceedings.

Detainees request that local law enforcement hold the person for no more than 48 hours after their release date to give ICE time to verify the person’s immigration status. But DPS treated the detainers as mandatory, delaying the release of MALDEF clients for longer than scheduled until ICE picked them up.

DPS has also held other individuals in ICE detainers for more than 48 hours.

The lawsuit was filed in January 2020 on behalf of Alicia Moya Garay, a Las Vegas resident who was arrested in July 2018 for a minor traffic violation. Moya Garay was held at the city jail after her scheduled release after serving her 10-day sentence in ICE custody.

MALDEF also represents Juan Jaime Lopez-Jimenez, who was arrested for unpaid tickets in April 2018. The Las Vegas man was detained by ICE for nearly two months after he was released from the city jail and was held by ICE after his release.

The lawsuit also includes as a plaintiff the Arriba Las Vegas Labor Center, an organization that focuses on the rights of immigrant workers. Arriba has been forced to focus her work on helping immigrants caught in the ICE jail pipeline in the city.

“ICE and local law enforcement cannot use ICE detainers to avoid Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful and lengthy detentions,” said Ernest Herrera, MALDEF’s Western Regional Counsel. “We are asking the court to require ICE, as well as the city of Las Vegas, to provide probable cause to justify the detention based on the ICE detainer.”

In October 2019, the city of Las Vegas announced it would no longer honor ICE detainers following a California federal court order, but DPS continued to detain individuals based on ICE detainers.

MALDEF is asking U.S. District Court Judge Ann Traum for a jury trial and a permanent injunction to stop the city and ICE from continuing the practice and to award monetary damages to Moya Garay and Lopez-Jimenez.

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