State and local law enforcement officers in Montana do not have the authority to arrest people on federal civil immigration detainers, the Montana Supreme Court ruled Wednesday. The 7-0 ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Montana and others against Lincoln County in October 2018 after Agustin Ramon — a dual resident of Mexico and France — was arrested on charges of stealing prescription medication from a neighbor's house in Eureka in August 2018.
Ramon's bail was set at $25,000. But he did not post bond because the sheriff said he would comply with a Department of Homeland Security request to detain Ramon on their behalf for up to another 48 hours after any potential release date.
The ACLU argued in January, and the Montana Supreme Court agreed, that telling Ramon he would not be released if he posted bond constituted another arrest and that Montana law does not give local law enforcement officers the authority to arrest people based on civil immigration detainers.
“The Legislature has specifically authorized DHS officers to conduct arrest for state crimes ... yet it has not done the inverse for state officers,” justices wrote. The Montana decision matches those in several other states, including Minnesota, Massachusetts and New York, said Dan Galindo, an attorney for the ACLU. Meaning that in any of these states, a criminal alien, already in jail for anything from theft to manslaughter may be forced to be released rather than allow state and local officers to comply with ICE.
The justices noted that while the Department of Homeland Security's detainer policy is not a mandatory policy, President Donald Trump issued an executive order providing that “any jurisdictions that willfully refuse to comply” with such requests “are not eligible to receive Federal grants.”
Ramon pleaded guilty to burglary in January 2019 and was given a six-year deferred sentence. He spent 203 days in jail before he was deported to France.
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Updated: Thu, Mar 26th 2020 @ 3:36pm EDT