Another ICE-Detention Lawsuit Against Miami-Dade Moves Forward

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and MDPD Director Juan Perez.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and MDPD Director Juan Perez. Miami-Dade County Police
With every day that passes, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez's 2017 order to hold federal immigration detainees in his county's jails seems worse. The Trump administration offered Miami-Dade virtually no financial incentives after the mayor loudly declared his county was not a sanctuary.

Instead, as civil rights groups warned, immigrants have sued. Today U.S. District Court Judge Kathleen Williams ruled that yet another lawsuit against the county can move forward: This past July, multiple immigrants filed suit against Miami-Dade after they posted bail but were detained so Immigration and Customs Enforcement could pick them up and deport them. Williams held that Miami-Dade County can be held liable for unlawfully detaining people on ICE's behalf. She said the immigrants who sued have validly argued the county violated the Fourth Amendment, which protects against illegal searches and seizures.

The immigrants "have plausibly alleged that the County was not authorized by federal law to arrest [them] for civil immigration violations and, therefore, because they were arrested without probable cause of a crime, the County violated their Fourth Amendment rights," Williams wrote. She added that the "plaintiffs have also sufficiently alleged that the County’s policy and practice of honoring all detainer requests from ICE reflected the County’s deliberate indifference to the possibility that constitutional violations would result from that policy and practice.”

The bad news for the county comes mere weeks after another federal judge ruled that Garland Creedle, an American who was wrongfully held in Miami-Dade County's jail on ICE's behalf, also has proper standing to sue for wrongful detention.

But the case Williams ruled on today is particularly troubling. The immigrant-rights groups WeCount! and Florida Immigrant Coalition sued on behalf of two immigrants who paid the county bail but were kept in jail anyway. Lawyers for two anonymous immigrants argued that once the detainees posted bail, their detentions were based solely on "detainer requests" from ICE and, therefore, constituted secondary "re-arrests." The rights groups then argued that those "re-arrests" were unlawful. Williams largely agreed.

The lawsuit refers to the plaintiffs only by their initials: S.C.C. ran a landscaping business and held a commercial driver's license but was arrested in June for allegedly driving without proper licensure. After S.C.C. sat in jail for a month, a judge reduced the bail to a total of $2. The detainee paid the money but remained in jail anyway.

The second plaintiff, C.F.C., is a mother of eight American-born children who runs a small business supplying bodegas with fruit and vegetables. This past May, she was shopping at a Homestead BJ's with her kids when she was involved in a fender-bender. She says someone screamed, "Go back to Mexico!" at her before calling the cops. She was arrested for driving without a license. Despite the fact that her family paid her bond the same day she was arrested, she was kept in jail and then transferred to the Broward Transitional Center, a privately run, for-profit immigrant-detention facility in Pompano Beach designed to hold low-level, noncriminal detainees.

Today Judge Williams threw out some of the claims in the case but ultimately decided the immigrants had a right to sue the county on Fourth Amendment grounds. The plaintiffs successfully argued that the county knew "that holding individuals pursuant to detainer requests from ICE violates their Fourth Amendment rights," Williams wrote.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.