Gov. Paul LePage orders sheriffs to follow federal detention requests

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Gov. Paul LePage

Gov. Paul LePage on Tuesday directed all sheriffs in the state to comply with detainer requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the governor wrote in a letter sent to all 16 counties.

The letter, a copy of which was posted to the state website, comes one day after LePage told national radio host Laura Ingraham that he would remove from office any sheriff who does not comply with the detainer requests, after Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce earlier this month said he would no longer honor the detention requests. 

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Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant, speaking Tuesday as president of the Maine Sheriffs’ Association, said the group has “not taken a stance yet” on the issue, and that “there will be some discussion coming up as to whether there’s any sort of direction we want to take.”

“Right now, most of us believe that it’s up to each individual sheriff on what decision they should take,” he said.

Speaking for his own jail, Gallant said he would not retain anyone if he believed it violated their constitutional rights.

Androscoggin County Sheriff Eric Samson said Tuesday he believes his jail’s practice is “in line with the governor’s order.”

Franklin County Sheriff Scott Nichols Sr. was out of state on vacation Tuesday and other officials were out of the office and not available for comment.

On Facebook late Monday, York County Sheriff William King said he was joining Cumberland County’s Joyce and would no longer honor ICE detainers if he were presented with one.

LePage, in his letter to the state’s sheriffs Tuesday, said, “As a state established under the authority of the Constitution of the United States of America and of the state of Maine, the state must do its duty and work cooperatively at the federal, state, and local level to enforce the laws that maintain our nation’s sovereignty and keep us safe.”

“Because ICE officials must have probable cause prior to requesting a detainer, we should not be putting potentially dangerous illegal aliens back on the streets without granting federal officials the authorized 48 hours of detention,” he stated.

“My executive order clearly requires this reasonable cooperation on behalf of Maine’s law enforcement officers for the safety of our people. If the sheriffs refuse to comply with state and federal law, I am authorized to take additional action to remove them from office under the Maine Constitution.”

After Joyce said he would not honor the detainer requests, King reiterated his similar position. For King the argument is more hypothetical; in a previous interview, King said his York jail had not received a single detainer request in the two years since he was elected.

“I stand with Sheriff Kevin Joyce and will not honor a ‘request’ from the federal government to hold an immigrant without proper documentation,” King wrote on Facebook. “I make no apology for protecting the taxpayers of York County from needless litigation.”

Androscoggin County received two requests from ICE in the past year to detain inmates, but both were being held on criminal charges, Samson said.

“We will continue to make arrangements for individuals incarcerated in our facility with ICE detention requests to be picked up by a federal agent upon conclusion of that individual’s local holds,” Samson said in a written response. “We have not experienced a problem with this practice, and it will continue.

“Historically, individuals who have completed local commitments have been picked up upon release and transported to an authorized federal detention facility,” Samson said. “We are not one of the counties authorized to hold federal prisoners.”

Gallant said that as Oxford County sheriff, “if we don’t have a judge’s order, or a writ, or probable cause to keep a prisoner in custody for a crime, they will get released.”

“We believe in the Fourth Amendment here (in Oxford County), and we certainly don’t want to violate anybody’s Fourth Amendment rights with an illegal seizure,” Gallant said. “We have no problem in Oxford County complying with ICE requests and Border Patrol requests, but for somebody to call and say, ‘Hey, hold somebody until we can find out if there’s something wrong with them,’ we don’t take that stance.”

Gallant said the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office has not received any ICE requests to detain illegal immigrants.

“It’s not that I or anybody else is disrespecting the governor,” Gallant said. “The governor has the right to give legal orders to the sheriffs, but if I believe it’s a violation of someone’s constitutional rights or law, I’m not going to obey it.”

Cumberland County has seen an uptick in ICE-related detentions at the jail, including a jump in the number of detainer requests. Typically, ICE detainees stay short periods in Cumberland County while en route to federal detention centers elsewhere.

So far this year, 83 people have been arrested or detained by ICE at the Cumberland County Jail — 11 through detainer requests and 72 who were directly arrested, the sheriff’s office said. In 2016, local ICE agents held 40 people at the jail, five through detainer requests.

Joyce said previously that the court decisions challenging the detainer practice include a 2015 case that originated in Rhode Island, where a naturalized U.S. citizen was detained by ICE. Judges have determined that holding a person simply at the request of another agency without probable cause was a violation of the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable seizures.

“I’m not putting the taxpayers of Cumberland County at risk for holding somebody that we could be left holding the bag on,” Joyce said. “So if you think you’ve got something, get a warrant. We’ll honor the warrant.”

The sheriff said he would continue to honor detainers accompanied by a judicial warrant, and would house ICE inmates who are booked into the facility directly from ICE custody.

Governor’s Letter to Sheriffs Regarding Federal Illegal Alien Detention Requests by sunjournal on Scribd

“It’s not that I or anybody else is disrespecting the governor. The governor has the right to give legal orders to the sheriffs, but if I believe it’s a violation of someone’s constitutional rights or law, I’m not going to obey it.”

— Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant

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