The struggle over immigration policy between the Trump administration and local officials turned to New England this week.
A county sheriff in Maine became the first in the state to announce he wouldn’t honor Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests, according to the Associated Press.
Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce revealed the decision in a letter last week to ICE officials. In interviews with local media on Wednesday, Joyce explained that he had concerns about the constitutionality of ICE operations.
“Let’s say that the case doesn’t build up beyond that and the person who is believed to be an illegal immigrant is found to be legal, then I’ve just committed a Fourth Amendment violation of false imprisonment,” he explained to WCSH, a local NBC affiliate.
Joyce said that county officials would respect ICE requests to hold inmates beyond their release date, but only if the agency gets an arrest warrant beforehand from a judge.
The sheriff said he arrived at the decision outlined in his letter to ICE after “a lot of fact-finding.”
As WCSH noted, a controversial immigration case in Cumberland County, in the first months of the Trump administration, involved the deportation of a man married to a US citizen.
“What they are rounding people up for now and taking people on the slightest little thing,” Sandra Merlim told the TV station.
“They’re just using that as an excuse to do a huge roundup, I believe, and I just think it’s ridiculous,” she added.
Her husband, Otto Morales-Caballeros, had been awaiting a response on his application to become a spouse’s permanent lawful resident. Morales-Caballeros, a 37-year-old Guatemalan national, had escaped violence to arrive in the US as a teen.
Cumberland is the most populated county of Maine and home to Portland, the state’s largest city.
The announcement by Joyce comes amid a nationwide battle between the Trump administration and localities who won’t fully cooperate with ICE on deportation proceedings—so-called “sanctuary cities.”
Last week, a federal judge issued a preliminary nationwide injunction blocking Attorney General Jeff Sessions from withholding grant money from sanctuary cities. The ongoing litigation had been brought by the city of Chicago.
In March, ICE fulfilled a Trump administration promise and started publishing a list of jurisdictions that refused to cooperate with detainer requests. Weeks later, the database was pulled from the agency website, after it was found to be inaccurate. Public access to the data has not been restored, as of publication.