LA County Close to Approving $14 Million Settlement Over Immigration Jail Holds

In this April 16, 2020 photo, a gloved hand points to a holding cell at the hospital ward of the Twin Towers jail in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

LOS ANGELES (CN) — Los Angeles County is set to approve a $14 million settlement agreement stemming from a federal lawsuit over how long people can be held in jails based on an “immigration hold.”

The settlement has not been finalized, but on Thursday the parties notified the court of the agreement, capping off a federal lawsuit from October 2012 from a British film director who said he was held in Men’s Central Jail for 89 days on an immigration hold.

Duncan Roy sued former LA County Sheriff Lee Baca and the county for denying bail to thousands of people and obtained a court order setting an amount for them to post. The claim is that the sheriff’s department denied that process because they said the federal government placed an immigration hold on those individuals.

The second part of the complaint claimed some people were denied release from the jail for 48 hours or more on the basis of the federal hold, even though all charges against them were dismissed, or they were acquitted or already served their sentence.

In February 2018, U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte found that the sheriff’s department unlawfully detained undocumented immigrants in jail, including class members in the lawsuit. A related case, Gerardo Gonzalez v Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also found that the sheriff’s department violated the constitutional rights of thousands of people.

There have been dramatic changes at the county jails since the original complaint was filed in 2012. Former Sheriff Baca was convicted by a jury in 2017 of orchestrating a scheme to interfere in a federal probe into widespread abuse of inmates by officers at the county’s jail. He was ordered to jail this past January after an appellate court declined to take up his appeal.

Current Sheriff Alex Villanueva campaigned on removing immigration agents from county jails, but that has not completely stopped, according to multiple news reports.

On Thursday, attorney for LA County Andrew Baum with Glaser Weil said in a court filing a settlement agreement had been reached and was approved by the county’s Claims Board on Aug. 3, where a $14 million settlement agreement was recommended in closed session.

“Counsel is pleased to advise the Court that the settlement documents have been finalized and approved, the settlement has been submitted to the Claims Board, and the Claims Board has approved the settlement,” Baum wrote.

The agreement will go before the county’s public safety cluster under the county’s Chief Executive Office and then to the County Board of Supervisors for final approval.

The class counsel are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union who did not immediately respond to emails for comment.

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