LOS ANGELES – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement uses unreliable and antiquated information on its databases to request the arrest of people suspected of being in the country illegally, a civil rights attorney alleged Tuesday, but a government lawyer countered that the agency has sufficient evidence to issue so-called immigration detainers.
During opening statements of a bench trial in Los Angeles federal court, an attorney for a class of individuals allegedly tagged for deportation unlawfully said that ICE’s multiple databases are inadequate to verify whether someone is in the United States illegally.
Since 2008, ICE has requested the arrest of more than 2 million people “based on nothing but incomplete and inaccurate databases,” alleged Jennie Pasquarella, director of immigrants’ rights and senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Southern California.
ICE has “no reliable evidence to demonstrate the reliability of their computer systems,” she alleged, standing at the podium before U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte Jr.
However, Jacob Max Weintraub, an attorney with the Office of Immigration Litigation at the U.S. Department of Justice, told the court that the agency had probable cause in each case it asks for the detention of those suspected of being in the country illegally.
Weintraub said the agency automatically checks a minimum of 10 databases for “affirmative evidence of removability.” If the evidence is unclear, he said, the case is referred to a field office for further review and possible in-person interviews.
Plaintiffs are seeking a judge’s order preventing ICE from issuing detainers based on its allegedly “archaic, byzantine” system, Pasquarella said.
While the ACLU attorney alleged that the government’s databases have not been revised in years and have a 30 percent error rate, Weintraub responded that ICE has “modified its practices and created new databases” to deal with the issue.
“Current practices meet the standards,” he said, adding that evidence in the case would show that ICE computer databases “allow agents to make correct decisions.”
The trial in downtown Los Angeles is expected to last all week.
In another chapter of the same case, in February 2018, Birotte ruled that ICE and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department unlawfully detained thousands of suspected immigrants and denied them bail even for minor offenses on the basis of immigration detainers. The ruling entitles class members to injunctive relief and monetary damages.