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Inmate Sues Coconino County Jail Over ICE Detainer Policy

A class-action group is suing Coconino County officials over the practice of jailing inmates longer than required when staff suspect an inmate is undocumented. And now a Flagstaff group is asking the City Council to step in.

An inmate charged with driving under the influence filed the suit last month to challenge the constitutionality of the jail policy that honors immigration detainer requests. The jail has held inmates for up to two days longer than required, allowing Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to take custody of people suspected of being in the country illegally.

Robert Neustadt, with Keep Flagstaff Together, said only a second warrant signed by a judge or neutral third party magistrate can detain an inmate longer.

"It's not legal, in fact it's unconstitutional, to hold somebody for even one minute beyond the time that their criminal charge dictates," Neustadt said. "In order to hold somebody beyond the time of their criminal charge there needs to be a second warrant for reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed."

Neustadt's group, which met with Coconino County Sheriff Jim Driscoll several times, is asking the Flagstaff City Council to pass a resolution calling for the county to change the policy.

But Driscoll said the policy adheres with Arizona's SB 1070 law, the controversial legislation signed into law in 2010, that mandates agencies assist in the enforcement of federal immigration laws.

The Coconino County Sheriff's Office receives on average 76 detainer requests each year.

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Laurel Morales was a Fronteras Desk reporter in Flagstaff from 2011 to 2020.