DALLAS (CN) - Dallas County unconstitutionally refuses to release inmates who have bonded out for months, due to hold requests by federal immigration officials, 16 Hispanic plaintiffs claim.
Lead plaintiff Arturo Mercado sued the county and Sheriff Lupe Valdez in Dallas Federal Court Monday evening. The plaintiffs say they should have been held for only 48 hours at the request of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials after they posted bond, not for several more months.
"Freedom from pretrial detention is a fundamental right protected by the United States Constitution," the 13-page complaint states. "Defendants held plaintiffs in Dallas County jail for months pending trial, even for purported misdemeanors, without allowing immediate release on bond."
The plaintiffs say posting bond in Dallas County has become a "futile exercise for those with immigration holds," because it will not result in immediate release.
"The scheme has predictable effects," the complaint states. "Because Dallas County will not immediately release those on bond, individuals with immigration holds generally do not attempt to post bond, and Dallas County maintains pretrial detention over almost all individuals with immigration holds."
Mercado and the other plaintiffs contend the Texas Constitution is being violated as well, because ICE hold requests are not warrants - which are required for all arrests in the state.
They seek actual damages for violations of their Fifth, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. They are represented by Anthony M. Garza with Charhon Callahan and Eric Puente with Puente Hindieh, both in Dallas.
Sheriff's spokesman Raul Reyna declined to comment on the lawsuit Tuesday morning, citing the "active litigation." He previously said ICE officials are "familiar" with the agreement in Dallas County and will not submit holds for inmates in the wrong categories.
The timing of the lawsuit is noteworthy as it was filed over a month after Valdez decided to no longer honor ICE hold requests for inmates accused of minor offenses. The policy change resulted in Gov. Greg Abbott admonishing Valdez for enacting "sanctuary-city policies" that he will no longer tolerate.
"Your decision to not fully honor ICE's requests to detain criminal immigrants poses a serious danger to Texans," Abbott wrote in a letter Monday. "These detainers provide ICE with the critical notice and time it needs to take incarcerated immigrants into federal custody."Follow @davejourno
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