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Judge tosses suit over sheriff’s immigrant detention policy

August 22, 2018

This December 2017, photo provided by the Coconino County Sheriffs office shows Guillermo Tenorio-Serrano after his arrest on a drunken driving charge. Tenorio-Serrano filed a lawsuit that challenged a northern Arizona sheriff's policy of detaining immigrants arrested on state charges up to 48 hours after they post bond so immigration authorities will have time to take them into custody. The lawsuit was dismissed Monday, Aug. 20, 2018, at the request of lawyers for Tenorio-Serrano, who was taken into federal immigration custody last month after he bonded out of jail. He has since been sent back to Mexico. (Coconino County Sheriff's Office via AP)

PHOENIX (AP) — A judge has dismissed a challenge to an Arizona sheriff’s policy of detaining immigrants arrested on state charges for up to 48 hours after posting bond so immigration authorities have time to take them into custody.

Lawyers for Guillermo Tenorio-Serrano asked for his lawsuit to be tossed when he was released from jail on bond last month after losing a key battle over the policy, which affects immigrants in the country illegally. A judge dismissed the suit against Coconino County Sheriff Jim Driscoll and others Monday.

Tenorio-Serrano was jailed for nearly seven months in Flagstaff after being arrested on an extreme drunken driving charge and later taken into custody by federal immigration authorities and sent back to Mexico.

Bill Peard, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney who represented Tenorio-Serrano, said his client had no legal standing to maintain the lawsuit after leaving jail and being taken into federal custody.

Tenorio-Serrano was sent back to Mexico without his charge being resolved, but Peard said his client had spent enough time in jail to cover whatever sentence he might have faced if he had been convicted.

Peard said it likely would have taken an additional six months to a year to seek a permanent order barring Driscoll from enforcing the policy, and it wasn’t clear whether Tenorio-Serrano could have remained behind bars during that time.

Lawyers for Tenorio-Serrano argued the policy was illegal because the sheriff lacked the power to detain their client based on a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement request to hold him and a warrant. Driscoll’s lawyers disputed that claim, saying laws allow the sheriff to comply with ICE requests to detain suspects.

Tenorio-Serrano posted bond after U.S. District Judge David Campbell denied his request in early July to temporarily block the sheriff from enforcing the policy while the lawsuit worked its way through the courts.

The judge concluded Tenorio-Serrano wasn’t likely to succeed in claiming Driscoll lacks power under state law to make arrests for federal immigration violations and in arguing that a U.S. law bars the sheriff from complying with ICE requests to hold inmates.

“The injunction would interfere with their judgment as elected officials, would interfere with the Arizona Legislature’s police determination in S.B.1070 (the state’s 2010 landmark immigration law) that Arizona should cooperate with federal immigration enforcement, and might interfere with Arizona’s interest in preventing unlawful immigration, as recognized by the Supreme Court,” Campbell wrote.

John Masterson, an attorney for Driscoll, said he believes the sheriff would have prevailed if the lawsuit moved forward.

“With the exception of one district court, the case law has been pretty clear that the sheriffs are allowed to cooperate with federal immigration authorities in holdings ICE detainers and warrants,” Masterson said.

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Follow Jacques Billeaud at twitter.com/jacquesbilleaud. His work can be found at https://bit.ly/2GGWEPO .

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