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Wednesday, July 17, 2024 | Back issues
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County Fights Inmates’ Claims of ‘Futile’ Bail

DALLAS (CN) - A lawsuit brought by 16 immigrant inmates at the Dallas County jail over long immigration holds after bailing out should be dismissed for lack of a viable claim, Dallas County said.

Lead plaintiff Arturo Mercado sued the county and Sheriff Lupe Valdez on Oct. 26 in Federal Court, saying they should have been held for only 48 hours on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement holds after they bailed out - not for several days or months.

They say the practice makes posting bond an essentially "futile exercise for those with immigration holds" because it will not result in immediate release. They claim violations of their Fifth, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

Valdez and the county filed a motion to dismiss on Dec. 18, arguing the inmates' civil rights claims don't state a viable claim and that Valdez has qualified immunity.

Regarding the plaintiffs' due process claim, the county says the holds fail to meet the standard of "shocking the conscience" to where it "violates the decencies of civilized conduct."

The county further argues against the Fourth Amendment claim of unreasonable seizures.

"In this case, because the plaintiffs' periods of allegedly improper pretrial detention were 'seizures' covered by the 'specific protections of the Fourth Amendment' there is no basis for a separate claim under the rubric of substantive due process," the 28-page motion says.

The county disputes the plaintiffs' claim that they were denied bond as a direct result of the immigration detainers in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

"Plaintiffs fail, however, to identify any facts or legal authority to establish that Dallas County or Sheriff Valdez had the authority to set or allow them to post bonds in connection with the state criminal charges pending against them," the county says. "The court may take judicial notice that only the presiding judge in these cases had judicial authority to set bonds in connection with the state criminal charges pending against the plaintiffs."

The county says that even if immigration detainers were hypothetically issued by federal officials without probable cause, there would still be no claims because "there is no allegation that the immigration detainers were facially invalid."

"It is well established that when a law enforcement official detains a person on the basis of some form of legal process authorizing the detention, the official's actions do not violate the Fourth Amendment so long as the process relied upon is facially valid. This principle is most commonly encountered in the context of warrants or court orders."

The lawsuit was filed one 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 quickly admonishing Valdez for enacting "sanctuary-city policies" that he will no longer tolerate.

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