Judge rules Miami-Dade County violates rights of inmates held for feds

Spokesman for mayor says county intends to appeal

MIAMI – A Miami judge has intervened in Miami-Dade County's policy of holding inmates for up to 48 hours at the request of federal authorities.

Miami-Dade County Judge Milton Hirsch ruled Friday that the county is violating the rights of inmates who would otherwise be allowed to go free.

File: Order on Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez ordered the policy after Trump issued an executive order threatening to withhold federal money from local governments considered "sanctuary cities" for immigrants. 

Gimenez said doing so takes away "any kind of excuse as to why the federal government could withhold any federal aid to Miami-Dade County, which is millions and millions of dollars."

In his ruling, Hirsch said Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers "are not evidence that a crime has been committed, or that someone is in this country illegally. They are not evidence of anything."

Hirsch said the practice "gives rise to two inequities," forcing the Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Department to house inmates "in whom neither the state nor the county has any ongoing interest" and resulting in the "continued incarceration" of individuals who haven't been charged with any crime.

The ruling involves the case of James Lacroix, a Haitian man who has been living in the country illegally.

"It's a great win for the Constitution, it's a great win for individual rights and it's a judge who is courageous enough not to be intimidated by the president of the United States," Lacroix's attorney, Philip Reizenstein, said.

Lacroix was arrested in January on a charge of driving with a suspended license. He pleaded guilty but remained in jail on an immigration hold.

Reizenstein said Lacroix has since been taken into federal custody.

"Of course we must protect our country from the problems associated with unregulated immigration," Hirsch wrote. "We must protect our country from a great many things; but from nothing so much as from the loss of our historic rights and liberties."

Mike Hernandez, a spokesman for the mayor, said Friday that immigration is a federal issue that should be handled in federal court. He said the county is planning to file an appeal with the Third District Court of Appeal.

About the Authors: