Immigration asked Miami-Dade jails to hold for US citizens for deportation, ACLU says

Federal immigration authorities have asked Miami-Dade to hold hundreds of people at county jails who are listed as U.S. citizens, according to a new report by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The civil rights group cited county data provided in a lawsuit filed by a U.S. citizen, Garland Creedle, an 18-year-old who was wrongly held for deportation after spending a night in a Miami-Dade jail in March 2017.

Creedle was free to go on the local charge, but Miami-Dade officers held him after his name triggered a detention request by federal immigration agents who wanted to apprehend him for possible deportation, the lawsuit said.

Immigration agents apparently realized the “detainer” was issued in error, and Creedle was allowed to leave the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center after spending an extra day behind bars. The ACLU helped him file a lawsuit against Miami-Dade in June 2017, citing a violation of his constitutional rights.

“Miami’s detainer records are deeply disturbing and should make other localities think twice before agreeing to ICE’s requests,“ Amien Kacou, staff attorney at the ACLU of Florida, said in a statement. “It would be unconscionable for our state government to compel local officials to hold U.S. citizens for ICE.”

Miami-Dade stopped accepting ICE detainer requests in 2013 after adopting a policy that restricted them to people accused of serious crimes and requiring payment of extra incarceration costs by Washington, which refused to pay.

The county reversed course days after Donald Trump became president and threatened to withhold federal funding from so-called “sanctuary communities” that did not cooperate with immigration authorities.

The county’s Corrections Department declined to comment, citing the ongoing litigation. A spokesman for ICE in Miami also declined to comment.

The ACLU did not reveal the data it said Miami-Dade provided showing the attempted immigration detentions of U.S. citizens. The report issued Wednesday said records turned over by the county showed ICE issued detainer requests for “420 people who were listed as U.S. citizens in Miami’s records.” The requests were issued between February 2017 and February 2019, and ICE ended up canceling 83 of them.

A spokeswoman said the records were produced by the county for the lawsuit, but were based on existing jail records showing the detainer subjects were listed as citizens by the Miami-Dade Corrections Department.

As of Jan. 1, Miami-Dade had received about 2,500 detainer requests since the county began honoring them again in January 2017. Of those, 1,479 people were turned over to ICE.

Some detainer subjects walk out of jail anyway since Miami-Dade jails will only hold people an extra 48 hours (plus holidays and weekends) for ICE and federal agents sometimes don’t arrive in time. About 250 subjects of detainers were still in county custody at the time of the year-end report by Corrections.

The ACLU said Miami-Dade’s numbers appear to be part of a national pattern, with ICE issuing detainer requests for people it wants to deport who are actually U.S. citizens. It cited litigation in Rhode Island that revealed ICE targeted about 460 U.S. citizens with detainers between 2003 and 2014.