The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is set Tuesday night to consider a $14 million payout to settle a federal class-action lawsuit related to the unlawful detention of thousands of suspected immigrants.

In 2018, a federal judge ruled that Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department illegally denied immigrants bail, even for minor offenses, on the basis of unconstitutional requests from ICE known as immigration holds or detainers.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte Jr. entitled class members to injunctive relief and monetary damages as a result of two lawsuits brought by the ACLU Foundation of Southern California and other civil rights groups.

Advocates hailed the 2018 decision as proof of abuses by the department and the Trump administration.

The suit was brought during Lee Baca’s tenure as sheriff, and when the ruling was published, then-sheriff Jim McDonnell said the lawsuit related to past practices.

“The Sheriff’s Department does not detain any inmate beyond their normal release date regardless of whether or not there is a valid ICE detainer. This has been the standard practice since 2014,” a spokeswoman said at the time.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva ran on his commitment to remove ICE personnel from county jails. In April, in response to the coronavirus, he implemented a moratorium on transfers to ICE custody during the pandemic. He has since made that ban permanent, announcing that inmates will only be transferred under judicial warrant, not based on a civil immigration detainer.

The 2018 decision issued in Roy v. County of Los Angeles and Gonzalez v. ICE held the sheriff’s department liable for violating the Fourth Amendment rights of thousands of inmates it detained without probable cause of any crime, including some who were held for days after they should have been released. It also held that the department unconstitutionally incarcerated thousands of individuals with low bail amounts who would not even have been booked into jail if it were not for unconstitutional immigration detainers.

The Board of Supervisors will consider whether to approve the payment in the Roy lawsuit. A county claims board recommended settlement in August.

British filmmaker Duncan Roy filed the suit in October 2012, alleging he spent nearly three months in Los Angeles County jails without a chance to post bail.

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By Arlene Huff

Arlene Huff is the founding member of Golden State Online. Before that She was a general assignment reporter. A native Californian, she graduated from the University of California with a degree in medical anthropology and global health. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

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