Organization sends notice following multiple complaints leading to a lawsuit

May10, 2013

CONTACT: Amy Miller or BeckiBrenner, (402) 476-8091,

LINCOLN - On Friday, the ACLU of Nebraska sent a letter to all county sheriff and local police agencies urging them to refrain from participating in voluntary "immigration detainer" programs citing concerns of constitutional violations. The organization also asserts that these programs are costly to local tax payers.

"Around the country and in Nebraska, we have seen that when the federal government asks a local law enforcement agency to detain someone with no cause, no proof of a crime and, simply a question about immigration status, the outcome is costly to local tax payers and detrimental to human lives," said ACLU of Nebraska Executive Director Becki Brenner.

The detainer program, run by the Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), involves a request from the federal government asking a local law enforcement agency to hold an individual while the federal government determines the individual's immigration status. Several law enforcement agencies around the country have refused to participate in the voluntary program. The ACLU believes the letter to all law enforcement agencies is necessary due to complaints about the program and questions from law enforcement officials.

"These requests are just that - a request from ICE to a local law enforcement agency. They do not have any force of law," said ACLU of Nebraska Legal Director Amy Miller. "When a local agency, such as Sarpy County, decides to hold someone, the local tax payers are footing the bill - not the federal government."

"In Nebraska, we are fortunate to have many law enforcement officials who are concerned by a request to hold someone when no warrant has been issued and no charge of a crime has been made," said Brenner. "Still, we have some departments that have been participating in the program. Our office has had an increasing number of complaints from individuals held by this program, including lawful residents."

One such case involves Ramon Mendoza. Mendoza, a naturalized US citizen, was pulled over in Papillion for 'windshield obstruction' - his son's boxing prize medallion, which was the size of a quarter. Mr. Mendoza was held for four days at the Sarpy County Correctional Center because they thought he might be illegal. His wife, Laura Mendoza, and children were turned away when presenting Mr. Mendoza's proof of citizenship which included his social security card, certificate of citizenship, marriage certificate and U.S. passport. This case is currently pending in federal court.

The letter, from ACLU of Nebraska Legal Director Amy Miller, was distributed to 90 county sheriff's offices, 130 police departments and the Nebraska Law Enforcement Training Academy.