WASHINGTON (AP) — The acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Thursday criticized a judge’s ruling barring his agency from relying solely on databases that have at times led to the wrongful detention of American citizens.
Speaking Thursday at the White House, Matthew Albence called the September ruling an example of “judicial overreach” that threatened public safety.
Following Albence was a Texas sheriff who suggested the ruling would require releasing jailed immigrants who were “drunks” and would “run over your children,” a comment that was immediately denounced by advocates.
U.S. District Judge André Birotte Jr. barred ICE from issuing requests known as “detainers” based solely on database searches considered to be unreliable. The ruling applies to states that do not explicitly authorize civil immigration arrests using detainers.
ICE cross-checks jail rosters around the U.S. with federal databases that track people’s nationality and immigration status. When it detects that a person is unauthorized to be in the U.S., ICE will issue a detainer asking the agency to hold the person until he or she can be taken into immigration custody.
Advocates say relying on electronic databases alone to issue detainers is unreliable because they often have erroneous data and can lead to falsely accusing people of being in the U.S. illegally.
Citing ICE’s data, Birotte wrote that 42 detainers between May 2015 and February 2016 were explicitly lifted because the person was a citizen. Nearly 800 detainers out of almost 13,000 issued during that time were withdrawn because the person was a citizen “or otherwise not subject to removal,” the judge wrote.
Asked about the detention of Americans, Albence said he could not speak about ongoing litigation.
“Many times, individuals that we come across that are United States citizens don’t even know that they are because the laws around citizenship are so complicated,” he said.
President Donald Trump — as well as his top officials and allies — has long assailed judges who have ruled against his administration’s efforts to restrict immigration and ramp up arrests and deportations.
By KEVIN FREKING and NOMAAN MERCHANT for AO NEWS
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