The settlement — reached Wednesday — could affect other jails that may be using the same practice.
“We think it’s pretty significant because a lot of jails across the country have been using these inter-transfer agreements,” said attorney Alfredo Gonzalez, who’s with Columbia Legal Services in Yakima. “What was at issue here was protecting the constitutional rights of everyone who goes into county jail and the practice Yakima County was using really didn’t follow those constitutional rights.”
The agreement ends a year-long federal lawsuit challenging the jail’s practice of placing ICE holds on suspects who were arrested on local charges.
After an ICE officer requested an immigration hold on prisoner Antonio Sanchez Ochoa in May 2017, Ochoa said he was denied assistance from a bail bondsman — even though a judge offered him bail. Ochoa then filed suit against the jail.
Until now, the jail would accept immigration holds that were either faxed, emailed or called in by an ICE officer. ICE officers routinely review the jail’s roster in search of prisoners suspected of violating immigration laws.
Ochoa’s lawsuit argued that corrections officers lacked arresting authority to enforce a warrant that wasn’t signed by a judge, but was merely requested by an ICE officer.
Such a process lacked judicial review, denying inmates due process, the lawsuit argued.
Ochoa’s lawsuit led to a judge issuing a temporary restraining order against the jail, barring it from using the hold to detain him. Ochoa was picked up by ICE officers waiting outside the jail the day he was released. The restraining order was lifted when Ochoa was deported.
Now ICE officers, who have the authority to serve warrants on and detain those suspected of immigration violations, are required to come to the jail and directly serve warrants — called administrative warrants — to inmates suspected of immigration violations.
Yakima County Department of Corrections Director Ed Campbell said the settlement focuses on the paperwork for ICE holds.
“People will not be detained or held in custody just on documents,” Campbell said. “We agreed that ICE would have an ICE agent in the facility or that we would receive a warrant signed by a judge.”