Texas AG Wants in on Immigration Lawsuit

DALLAS (CN) – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked a federal judge Wednesday to let him intervene on the Dallas County sheriff’s behalf in a closely followed case over whether she can keep undocumented inmates under federal immigration holds.

Paxton said Texas has a duty under state law and cooperative agreements with federal officials to hold inmates under U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers.

“This is a public safety issue,” he said in a statement Thursday. “If a Texas sheriff cannot lawfully honor an ICE detainer, dangerous people may slip through the cracks of the justice system and back into the community.”

Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez was sued twice in 2015, accused of violating undocumented immigrants’ constitutional rights by holding them for months after having already bonding out due to ICE detainers.

The plaintiffs claim they should have only been held for 48 hours under a detainer. They say a detainer is a civil matter rather than criminal and that Valdez lacks probable cause to hold an inmate based on a detainer alone. The two lawsuits have since been consolidated.

The case has nationwide implications, as it was cited by Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone in Arizona last month when he decided to no longer hold inmates with ICE detainers.

Valdez incensed state lawmakers in October 2015 after she announced she would no longer comply with immigration hold requests for inmates accused of minor offenses. Gov. Greg Abbott said the decision “poses a serious danger to Texans” and that the detainers give ICE “critical notice and time” to take inmates into federal custody.

Valdez has declined to comment on the case, citing ongoing litigation. She has argued in court the case should be tossed because she has qualified immunity. She also disputes the due process claim, stating it fails to meet the standard of “shocking the conscience” to where it “violates the decencies of civilized conduct.”

Paxton’s motion to intervene in the case comes three months after he assured voters that state lawmakers would end sanctuary city policies during the current legislative session.

He cited several filed bills, including Senate Bill 4, that would require police officers to provide notice to a judge or magistrate that an arrested person is illegally in the country if he or she cannot prove their legality within 48 hours.