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Lawsuit claims Las Vegas detaining immigrants despite announcement

Updated January 17, 2020 - 8:38 pm

A lawsuit filed in federal court Friday alleged that despite an October announcement that the city of Las Vegas would stop detaining people on federal immigration holds, the city jail has continued to work with Immigration and Custom Enforcement.

On Oct. 24, the city announced that it would suspend its agreement with ICE in response to a federal court ruling in California, which said that ICE cannot order jails to hold immigrants for longer than their sentence as part of the 287(g) program unless they’re in a state with statutes that specifically address civil immigration arrests.

The announcement came a day after the Metropolitan Police Department made the same announcement that it would suspend the agreement. Despite the city’s ruling, which was confirmed by City Attorney Brad Jerbic on Oct. 24, a lawsuit filed in federal court alleges the Las Vegas City Jail has issued holds against 24 people between Oct. 24 and Dec. 15.

The lawsuit was filed by attorneys with the Arriba Las Vegas Worker Center, an advocacy organization for “worker and migrant communities,” on behalf of Alicia Ines Moya Garay.

The lawsuit seeks “monetary damages,” a ruling stating that the jail’s policy violates the U.S. Constitution and Nevada law, and a “preliminary and permanent injunction” stopping the jail from “continuing or engaging in the unlawful conduct.”

“Local families are put at risk every day due to Defendants collusion with ICE,” the lawsuit said. “Defendants’ policy and practice not only violates individuals’ rights, it also undermines community safety and wastes local public safety resources.”

The defendants named in the lawsuit are the city; Michele Freeman, the city’s chief of the Department of Public Safety; and Bananto Smith, the deputy chief of detention services.

The lawsuit alleges that Moya, who was born in Mexico but came to the United States as an infant, was arrested July 17 on a bench warrant for unpaid traffic tickets after the Nevada Highway Patrol pulled her over for running a red light. The lawsuit also said that Moya is married to a U.S. citizen and has two children who are U.S. citizens.

Despite Moya’s family posting bail, Moya was not released from the city jail and was moved to an ICE detention center in Henderson, where she was released on Aug. 17 after posting a $2,000 bond, the lawsuit said.

Moya pleaded guilty “two to three days” after being arrested and was sentenced to an additional seven days in city jail. She was held for 23 days after her sentence was set to expire, the lawsuit said.

“Defendants violated Plaintiff Moya’s Constitution and statutory rights both by refusing to release her when she could have posted bail and by continuing to incarcerate her beyond her release date as ordered by the court,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit said that after Moya arrived at the city jail, she had a two- to three-minute conversation with an ICE agent regarding her place of birth, and Moya “only saw the ICE officer speak to the only other Latina arrestee.”

“Moya was asked by City personnel something to the effect of, ‘Where are you from?” the lawsuit said. “Plaintiff Moya answered that she was born in Mexico. Plaintiff Moya was not informed that this casual conversation with Defendants’ staff was related to immigration enforcement of Defendants’ policy and practice of collaborating with ICE.”

The lawsuit alleged that the Arriba Las Vegas Worker Center learned of 24 people who had been detained after the October announcement through a public records request. “At least five” of the 24 people were “subjected to unlawful prolonged detention in City Jail” and were released to ICE custody, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit also alleged that despite the October announcement from the city on Twitter, the city never entered into a formal 287(g) agreement with ICE.

“In fact, Plaintiffs are informed and believe that the City explicitly declined to enter into such an agreement with ICE.”

City spokesman Jace Radke declined to answer questions about the lawsuit Friday.

“It’s our practice not to comment on pending or ongoing litigation,” he said.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.

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