SAN DIEGO - In a surprising but welcome decision, San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore’s office confirmed that effective immediately, immigration detainees will no longer be held in jail for extra time under unconstitutional immigration “hold” requests. The policy reversal is attributed to a recent federal court decision, which held that a local jail had violated the Fourth Amendment by granting the detainer request without probable cause or a court-approved warrant.

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“This is a huge policy reversal, and a major victory for our communities, one that advocates have been working on for years,” said Homayra Yusufi-Marin, policy advocate for the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “We applaud Sheriff Gore’s action recognizing the important values of due process and equality under the law that are foundational to our justice system. This is another step on the path to reform our broken immigration system and promote trust between immigrant communities and local law enforcement.”

The sheriff’s decision also comes in the wake of California’s passage of the TRUST Act, a landmark law designed to decrease deportations and the breaking up of families and the restoration of trust in local law enforcement. The TRUST Act sets a clear standard for when local law enforcement may respond to federal immigration detainer requests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), by prohibiting detentions of undocumented immigrants for deportation in minor arrests.

San Diego is now the largest county in the country to decide to refuse all detainer requests from ICE. Sacramento County also announced today that it would discontinue honoring these requests. Other California counties now include Alameda, Santa Clara, San Francisco, San Bernardino, Santa Cruz, Monterey, and Riverside. Nationally, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Denver, and a number of counties in Oregon have likewise decided they will no longer help federal immigration authorities carry out deportations. A coalition of immigrant and human rights organizations coordinated requests to sheriffs across the western United States urging sheriffs to stop detaining individuals at ICE’s request to avoid damage liability.

“We still need to pass comprehensive immigration reform nationally and the administration needs to implement policies to put a stop to the mass deportations of our immigrant communities,” said Yusufi-Marin, “but this is an important, milestone step towards ending ill-advised immigration enforcement policies that break up mixed-status families, breach community trust in law enforcement, and result in billions of dollars of wasted resources.”

UPDATE: San Diego Sheriff's Department statement, available 5/30/14.