MONTPELIER— Vermont Attorney General T. J. Donovan issued guidance to local municipalities Monday aimed at helping them address legal issues regarding immigration that have emerged since Republican President Donald Trump issued a series of executive orders dealing with immigration and border security earlier this year.
The memo to Vermont cities and towns released by Donovan on Monday provides background information on existing state and federal laws and explains the consequences of violating them.
A number of towns across the state will consider new immigration policies Tuesday at their Town Meeting Day gatherings. Adopting so-called sanctuary status, meaning local communities would flout federal immigration law, could have consequences, he said. One of the president’s January executive orders threatens to eliminate federal money for localities that violate federal immigration law.
“The relationship of trust between local law enforcement and the communities they serve is an essential part of safe cities and towns,” Donovan said in a statement announcing the document. “This document is meant to protect that relationship and provide information to Vermont cities and towns as they review federal immigration policy.”
The guidance makes clear that any request to detain a person on behalf of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or by U.S. Customs and Border Protection does not have to be honored by local, county or state law enforcement agencies.
“The law imposes no legal obligation or authority on a local law enforcement agency to detain an individual. Thus, a law enforcement agency’s cooperation with a detainer from immigration authorities is strictly voluntary and not mandatory,” the pamphlet states.
Donovan also made clear that local law enforcement agencies must be mindful of state and federal constitutional provisions that prohibit detaining someone without probable cause.
“If a law enforcement agency complies with an immigration agency’s request and detains an individual for longer than necessary for the law enforcement agency’s own purposes, the continued detention of the individual constitutes a further seizure of the person that must be legally justified by, for example, probable cause that the individual committed a criminal offense and is subject to removal from the United States,” the guidance states. “Importantly, it is not a criminal offense for an individual to be unlawfully present in the United States. Unlawful presence alone is a civil, not criminal, violation and complying with a detainer request on this basis alone will not meet the warrant requirement under the Constitution.”
If a law enforcement agency detains someone at the request of ICE or CBP in violation of the Fourth Amendment it “could result in the imposition of monetary damages against the local agency,” the statement said.
Read the full document here: bit.ly/2mbAs3v