In order for immigration officials to keep someone in custody, they have to have evidence that they are actually in the country illegally. Simply having a hunch that the person is here illegally is not good enough.

This is the basis for a lawsuit filed recently by immigration advocates and Southern California’s American Civil Liberties Union against the federal government. The goal of the lawsuit is getting the government to drop holds on those in custody and only reissue them once an investigation into whether or not the person is here illegally has been done. They would like the lawsuit to obtain class action status and likely include those like the 23-year-old California man who was arrested for a drug charge. Even though he was born near Los Angeles, and is therefore a U.S. citizen, he was held on an immigration detainer.

The lawsuit alleges that Immigration and Customs Enforcement are using illegal tactics to keep arrestees in custody. It claims that in order to hold the arrestees after they have been released on their criminal charges, immigrant agents file detainers. These detainers can keep the person in custody for up to 48 hours, not including weekends and holidays. The lawsuit claims that these detainers are unconstitutional because they can affect U.S. citizens whom immigration officials have no authority over.

If you are a U.S. citizen and have been held by immigration officials, you may wish to speak with an attorney about your rights to recourse for being wrongly detained. You may also seek advice on being included in this class action lawsuit.

Source: The Fresno Bee, “Immigrant advocates sue US gov’t over detainers,” June 19, 2013