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by Anika Yoder
The Elkhart Sheriff’s Office has been contacted by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and will be making a change to their immigration detainment policy. This means they will be detaining people for 72 hours instead of 48, and this worries locals as immigration is given an extra day to come for detainees. Now ICE does not need a judicial warrant for arrest or probably cause to imprison immigrants.
Merino Law Firm recently posted on their Facebook page about Elkhart working with ICE and what should be done in case a problem arises where someone is stopped by an officer.
From here, in this article some of the content that is being quoted has been translated from a Facebook post and may not be entirely accurate as to the translation. However, the text has been analyzed and the actual post can be found on Facebook at Merino Law Firm P.C.
The firm’s Facebook post states that, “The Elkhart County Sheriff has just informed the community that there will not be an immigration detention center but that if they gave in to the request by immigration authorities to detain individuals for 72 hours instead of 48 hours for immigration to have an extra day to come by immigrants if they pay their bail or if a local judge releases them from jail.”
Elkhart officers are required, when they have an individual their custody to administer a questionnaire asking whether they have a social security number and whether or not they were born in the country. Depending on this questionnaire, officers are then required to fill out a form called the I-247 which then is faxed to customs enforcement. Immigration then responds detailing whether the individual should be detained despite them posting bond or a judge ordered release.
Attorney Merino at Merino Law Firm helped to condense what exactly is going on.
“The Elkhart County Jail is now stating that they have an agreement with ICE to hold people for 72 hours rather than 48 hours after they post bond in a state court case or are released by a judge because they don’t have enough time to come pick people up in Elkhart County, Indiana,” said Merino.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Indiana explains on their site www.aclu-in.org, in a press release on January 9, 2020 titled “Elkhart Sheriff’s Coordination with ICE Raises Constitutional Concern” about how this new policy raises constitutional concern for locals.
“It is voluntary for Elkhart County law enforcement to work with ICE, absent a judicial warrant,” said the ACLU. This means ICE wouldn’t need a warrant to come and take a detainee and it’s voluntary that Elkhart has made this arrangement with immigration.
“I do not know why Elkhart County is working with immigration but I do know that the County Commissioners were not aware that the Sheriff had entered an agreement with Immigration Customs Enforcement,” said Attorney Merino.
So not only are detainees able to be taken without a warrant but the board responsible for supervising and directing the county departments wasn’t aware the Sheriff’s Office had made arrangements with customs enforcement.
“First of all, once a judge releases an individual or the person posts bond, the individual is no longer in the custody of the Elkhart County Jail and we are feeding and housing that person without getting paid for it by the federal government. Second of all, there is currently a federal court injunction in the Northern District of Indiana against the 48-hour holds because of their tendency to violate people’s constitutional rights since local authorities do not uniformly apply federal law correctly,” said Attorney Merino.
The tendency of constitutional violation of detainees has already been brought to the attention of enough people to currently hold a federal injunction which is a court order to refrain from specific acts that might violate individuals. Consequently, the sheriff’s office and the county of Elkhart have civil liability (potential compensation for damages) for holding people over what is constitutionally allowed.
“The current scheme makes our local community legally responsible if people’s rights are violated,” said Merino.
Elkhart being legally responsible for detainees has caused concern for the people of Elkhart and surrounding areas such as Goshen. With the policy being so close to home Attorney Merino was asked how the community is affected by this and how to respond.
“We have a solid immigrant workforce that contributes to our entrepreneurial spirit and the local economy,” said Merino. “We worship together, we work together, we eat at the same restaurants and our children go to the same schools. Immigrant and non-immigrants alike should be treated in a fair and humane manner. My faith teaches me that I have to love my neighbor as myself. What better way than to live at peace with our neighbors. If somebody makes a mistake or gets in trouble, let them go to court and take care of the problems like everybody else, in front of the judge.”
With Goshen being in Elkhart County and the county being responsible for these detainees, people are worried they’re not getting their due justice in court which takes away from the idea that wherever you’re from you should be treated fairly.
“Goshen is a very special place and from our leadership, to our Police Department and our schools, we strive to live at peace and to help others to achieve their potential. However, Goshen is part of Elkhart County so this affects all of us. If you pay taxes in Goshen you are also paying taxes in Elkhart County and you should be concerned,” says Merino.
With the current federal injunction, the rising concern that Elkhart might have to act on their civil liabilities is what seems to matter most to the community as a whole.
The firm’s Facebook post gave some things to remember if you are stopped by a criminal case:
- Just answer your name, address and date of birth.
- Do not answer anything else and demand to see your lawyer.
- Know that if you identify yourself as a citizen of another country you will be placed in immigration detention.
- Knowing that keeping silent is better than lying. 5. Know that you should NEVER identify yourself as a US citizen if it is not because it is a deportable immigration sin that is not forgiven.
- Know that if you have more than 10 years in the country and children under 21 years of age, spouse, or parents who are residents or citizens, you can fight your residence and get a work permit while doing so.
- If you have a credible fear of returning to your country for being an individual who is under the protected categories of asylum, based on the available evidence, you can also defend yourself.
For more information Merino Law Firm is located in three different locations at:
Goshen: 102 N. Main Street, Goshen, Indiana 46526
Plymouth: 1825 N. Michigan Street, Plymouth, Indiana 46563
Ligonier: 102 S. Cavin Street, Ligonier, Indiana 46767
Merino suggested some safeguards for all Elkhart County residents.
“Take precautions for your family,” said Merino. “Have a power of attorney in effect for family matters and guardianship of your children. Find out about your immigration options. Do not leave your affairs to the decision. Become a resident or citizen if you can do it. Let us keep our neighbors in prayer and love each other.”