CIVIL RIGHTS GROUPS SUE LAS VEGAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY OVER UNLAWFUL DETAINER POLICY
LAS VEGAS – Las Vegas city authorities’ policy of holding immigrants in jail after they have completed their sentences is unconstitutional, a lawsuit filed today charged.
MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) and F. Travis Buchanan of The Cochran Firm of Las Vegas filed the suit on behalf of Alicia Moya, a Las Vegas resident who was arrested on a traffic charge and served her 10-day sentence in the city-run jail. The Las Vegas Department of Public Service (DPS), which operates the jail, refused to release Moya, instead holding her on a federal immigration request, known as a detainer.
At issue is the department’s unilateral decision to use warrantless immigration detainers to prolong an individual’s time in jail beyond the time ordered by a court. The suit argues the city’s policy violates the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment protection against “unreasonable searches and seizures.”
“Every person living in the United States enjoys constitutional rights that no local or federal agency may abrogate,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel. “This lawsuit seeks to end the ongoing violations of the constitutional rights of certain immigrants by the city of Las Vegas.”
MALDEF attorneys are also seeking an injunction on behalf of Arriba Las Vegas Worker Center, a grassroots organization that is a plaintiff in the case. The center serves day laborers, domestic workers, and other low-wage and migrant workers, and has been forced to spend money on immigration bonds and educational material that would otherwise have been used for services to families and individuals.
“The City of Las Vegas knowingly violates the rights of working people every day, and city officials have enabled and defended politics of hate, advancing the agenda of a rogue enforcement agency,” said Bliss Requa-Trautz, director of Arriba Las Vegas Workers Center. “Today that ends, and with this lawsuit, we hope to send a positive message for all immigrant and working families fighting against hate and inequality.”
Moya was stopped on July 17, 2018 for a minor traffic violation and arrested on a bench warrant for unpaid tickets. She was booked at the city jail where city staff and an ICE agent questioned her about her country of birth. A judge sentenced her to 10-days in jail. Her family, however, was prevented from posting bail because of the ICE hold. Jail staff then kept her behind bars beyond her release date.
“I want everybody to be able to drive and call the police without worry that they will land in immigration custody,” said Moya. “I don’t want another family to endure what mine has faced because of police and ICE collaboration.”
Last year, the City of Las Vegas announced in October that it would no longer honor ICE detainers after a federal court in California placed a permanent injunction on the use of detainers by local jurisdictions where there is no state statute authorizing civil immigration arrests. Nevada does not have such a law in place.
Recent public records, however, show DPS continues to hold individuals on immigration requests and without probable cause.
“Alicia is a dedicated mother and valued member of the Las Vegas community,” said Adrian Hernandez, a staff attorney at MALDEF. “She has a Fourth Amendment right to be free from prolonged detention without probable cause regardless of her immigration status. The city of Las Vegas, through its systemic coordination with ICE to enforce federal immigration laws, cannot disregard this basic constitutional principle.“
Read the complaint HERE