U.S. District Judge David G. Campbell dismissed a lawsuit against Coconino County Sheriff James Driscoll and Jail Commander Matthew Figueroa on Monday.
Plaintiff Guillermo Tenorio-Serrano and the ACLU initially moved to dismiss the lawsuit on July 30 after Campbell ruled against the plaintiff on July 5.
According to a press release, Tenorio-Serrano originally filed the lawsuit alleging that the sheriff’s policy of holding pretrial detainees -- at the request of the United States Department of Homeland Security through Immigration and Customs Enforcement -- after satisfying conditions for release on state charges was unlawful and violated the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 2, Section 8, of the Arizona Constitution.
Tenorio-Serrano was initially arrested by the Arizona Department of Public Safety on Dec. 11, 2017, for driving under the extreme influence of alcohol. At the time of his arrest, Tenorio-Serrano blew .203 and .195 on a breathalyzer and was taken to the Coconino County Jail.
Prior to the lawsuit, Driscoll said it was his understanding that state law required the jail to cooperate with federal authorities and honor ICE detainer requests. The sheriff further stated that he intended to cooperate with the requests of federal authorities, and that the intent of Arizona law is that state law enforcement agencies cooperate with federal agencies enforcing the immigration laws of the United States.
The sheriff also said “if a court having jurisdiction over us changes the law, we’ll change our policy to comply with that immediately.”
A day after Tenorio-Serrano’s arrest, ICE sent a notice of action – immigration detainer and a warrant for Tenorio-Serrano to the Coconino County Sheriff's Office. The detainer stated that there was probable cause to believe that Tenorio-Serrano was a removable alien and requested that the office maintain custody of him for two days beyond the time he would otherwise be released in order for ICE officers to take custody of him.
Tenorio-Serrano and the ACLU sought a preliminary injunction ordering his immediate release in the March filing.
Judge Campbell ruled against the ACLU and Tenorio-Serrano on July 5, determining that the plaintiffs did not have “a fair chance of success on the merits,” and denied the request for a preliminary injunction.
Judge Campbell noted that the sheriff would face serious hardship if the court ordered him to refrain from complying with ICE detainers and further noted that an injunction would interfere with Driscoll’s judgment as an elected official, would interfere with the Arizona Legislature's policy determination that Arizona should cooperate with federal immigration enforcement, and might interfere with Arizona's interest in preventing unlawful immigration as specifically recognized by the United States Supreme Court.
But that preliminary injunction ruling put an end to this case, said Billy Peard, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who was on Tenorio-Serrano’s legal team.
“It was a preliminary order, not a final decision, but effectively for our client it was a final decision because in order for us to have kept fighting forward that would have meant our client would have had to spend another six months or up to a year in jail,” Peard said.
Campbell wrote that while state law says state and local officers may not limit the enforcement of federal immigration laws, “it does not appear to be an affirmative grant of authority.” That statement, Peard said, means Driscoll isn’t required to honor ICE detainers.
The judge also cast doubt on the argument by the plaintiffs, however. They argued that the sheriff lacks the authority under state law to detain individuals based on civil immigration offenses. At this stage in the case, the sheriff’s compliance with the ICE detainers appears to fall within federal laws, he wrote.
The members of Keep Flagstaff Together, a group that has been pressuring the sheriff to stop complying with the ICE detainer requests, said Campbell’s language supports their case.