On Nov. 9, 2014, Jose Orellana made a mistake that many people make, but it cost him and his family more than it should have. Jose was arrested for drinking and driving. , One day later, a judge set his bail and Jose's family began working to raise the money to pay it and free him. The holidays were nearing, and Jose's wife had just given birth so it took a few days to get the money together.
On Nov. 21, a full six days before Thanksgiving, Jose's wife, Maria, showed up with the money needed to get him out of the Nobles County jail. However, the jail refused to accept the money and told Maria that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a federal agency, prohibited her husband's release while they investigated his immigration status. The disheartened Maria returned home and was forced to spend the holiday without her husband, alone with their new baby and other children.
Nobles County chose to imprison Jose for an additional 10 days without a warrant or probable cause, even though they knew they didn't have to. In June of 2014, the Minnesota Sheriff's Association informed ALL counties that ICE holds were merely a request, and they did not have to comply because courts across the country were issuing opinions stating that detaining someone without a warrant or probable cause violates the Fourth Amendment.
Finally on Dec. 1, a full 10 days after Maria showed up with bail money, Jose appeared in front of a judge for his DWI charge. He pleaded guilty, paid a fine and was released. He returned to his family, but will never get back the Thanksgiving he spent in jail.
Instead of having fond memories of the first holiday with his newborn, Jose will remember how he was kept from his family by these unjust and unfair law enforcement officials. To do their job and protect communities, law enforcement needs people from all walks of life to report crimes, to act as witnesses and to reach out when public safety issues arise. Law enforcement should encourage trust, not contribute to a culture of fear and suspicion among immigrants.
The ACLU-MN filed a lawsuit on behalf of Jose so that what happened to him, won't happen to others.
Luckily, most Minnesota counties have publicly stated they no longer honor ICE holds. Counties like Hennepin and Ramsey led the way in June 2014 when they agreed to stop doing ICE detainers. However, we have heard that Jose's case isn't an isolated one. The Nobles County Sheriff continues to defy the Constitution, and this will mean that many immigrants will continue to fear rather than trust local law enforcement. We hope that our lawsuit will send a message to Nobles and other counties to stop this unconstitutional practice.