A federal district judge appointed by Barack Obama has shackled a program that the Obama administration used to detain criminal aliens.
Judge Andre Birotte Jr., issued a permanent injunction barring U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from using fingerprint databases when making detainer requests to local police.
Birotte’s ruling blows a hole in the Secure Communities program initiated by President George W. Bush and continued under President Obama. Under that program, when persons were arrested and booked into jail, their fingerprints were sent to the FBI and ICE. If the individual was an illegal alien ICE would ask local authorities to hold the suspect until it could take custody.
Previously Obama’s U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles, Birotte on Friday asserted that the databases often contained “incomplete data, significant errors, or were not designed to provide information that would be used to determine a person’s removability.”
John Morton, Obama’s first ICE director, called Secure Communities “the future of immigration enforcement” because it “focuses our resources on identifying and removing the most serious criminal offenders first and foremost.”
A Department of Justice spokesman criticized Birotte’s ruling, saying, “Detainers are critical to the Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to remove thousands of criminal aliens each year. Detainers use one of the best features of our law-enforcement system: good-faith cooperation between federal immigration officers and their local law enforcement partners to keep dangerous criminals out of our communities.
“Many courts across the country have correctly concluded that this cooperation is lawful and have rejected legal challenges to the use of detainers. This decision wrongly breaks with those many decisions and puts our communities at risk.”
But Birotte wasn’t done. He also barred ICE from issuing detainers in states where there isn’t an explicit statute authorizing civil immigration arrests on detainers.
The ruling effectively blocks detainers in the federal court system’s Central District of California. The Los Angeles Times called that designation significant because the Pacific Enforcement Response Center, located in the Central District, is the ICE hub from which agents send detainer requests to 43 states, Guam, and Washington, D.C.
Overall, ICE lodged more than 160,000 detainers with local law enforcement agencies during fiscal 2019.
Americans can only hope that Birotte’s latest spasms of judicial activism will receive similar treatment from higher courts.