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Federal lawsuit against City of Las Vegas expanded to include ICE

By Jarah Wright,


A federal lawsuit against the City of Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Department of Public Safety has now been expanded to include U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), according to court documents.

The amended complaint, filed on Tuesday, said the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), as well as other plaintiffs, are challenging ICE's reliance on requests known as immigration detainers to extend the length of an individual's detention in a local jail without court review. The documents state those detainers violate the Fourth Amendment prohibition against prolonged detention without probably cause because "at no time does the agency hold a probable cause review before a judge or impartial decision-maker."

"ICE, under administrations of both political parties, has been complicit for took long in violations of the constitutional rights of immigrants," said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel. "This suit now challenges not only the jailers who unlawfully held immigrants but also the federal parties that facilitated and even instigated these violations."

According to court documents, the lawsuit stems from several incidents that happened in Las Vegas in 2018.

On July 17, 2018, court documents state that Alicia Ines Moya Garay was pulled over by Nevada Highway Patrol for allegedly running a red light and was arrested on a bench warrant for unpaid tickets. Moya Garay's lawyers state when she was taken to City Jail, city personnel asked her where she was from and that Moya Garay told them Mexico. They state she was then interviewed by an ICE agent asking whether she was a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident and Moya Garay said she was neither.

Court documents state she was kept in jail on an ICE detainer and was not allowed to post bail. Moya Garay's attorneys said she was in jail for two to three days before seeing a judge and in order to get back to her family, they said she pled guilty to the traffic charges. She was then sentenced to 10 days in City Jail and was scheduled to be released on July 25.

Moya Garay's attorneys state that on July 25, she was told she would not be released and that on July 26, she was shackled and taken to ICE detention in Henderson. Her lawyers said she remained in ICE custody until August 17, 2018 when she was released on a $2,000 bond. They state Moya Garay never went before a judge or magistrate while in ICE's custody for a "prompt probably cause determination" to justify her being kept in custody.

Attorneys state a similar incident happened to Juan Jaime Lopez-Jimenez on April 20, 2018.

Court documents state he was pulled over by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department for driving with a broken tail light and arrested on a bench warrant for unpaid tickets. After arriving at City Jail, Lopez-Jimenez's lawyers said he was questioned about his immigration status. The next day, attorneys stated his wife went to the jail to try to post bail and was not allowed to pay.

According to court documents, Lopez-Jimenez remained in the City Jail for three days before appearing before a judge at the North Las Vegas Municipal Court. The judge ordered that he be released after paying bail. Attorneys state he was ordered to be released on April 24, 2018.

However, court documents state he was taken to ICE detention in Henderson where he was kept for a month and a half before being released on a $7,000 bond. Lopez-Jimenez's lawyers state he never spoke to a judge or magistrate to discuss ICE detention.

The suit also states the immigrant worker rights group, Arriba Las Vegas Worker Center, has had to "divert its work to aiding immigrants caught up in the city's jail-to-ICE pipeline."

"ICE and local law enforcement cannot use ICE detainers to circumvent the Fourth Amendment's protections against unlawful, prolonged detentions," said Ernest Herrera, MALDEF Western Regional Counsel. "We are asking the Court to require ICE, as well as the City of Las Vegas, to provide for a prompt determination of probably cause to justify detention based on an ICE detainer."

In October 2019, the City of Las Vegas announced it would no longer honor ICE detainers after a federal court decision in California.

However, the lawsuit claims that's not true.

"Despite this announcement, Defendant City never entered a formal 287(g) agreement with ICE," the documents read. "In fact, plaintiffs are informed and believe that the City explicitly declined to enter into such an agreement with ICE."

Court documents state MALDEF is asking U.S. District Court Judge Anne. R Traum for a jury trial and permanent injunction to stop the city and ICE from continuing the practice and for monetary damages for Moya Garay and Lopez-Jimenez.

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