Workers Win End to Immigration Enforcement in Orleans Parish Prison
Amid national immigration debate, new pro-immigrant policy is one of farthest-reaching in the U.S.
NEW ORLEANS, August 13, 2013—Reversing his previous position, Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman has agreed to a policy that locks immigration enforcement out of New Orleans Parish Prison. The policy is one of the farthest-reaching of its kind in the country, and comes as some lawmakers push for broad criminalization and ever-harsher enforcement in national immigration reform.
The new policy is part of a settlement agreement in Cacho v. Gusman (2:11-CV-225, E.D. Louisiana), a lawsuit filed by two immigrant worker members of the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice (NOWCRJ). The two men were unconstitutionally held on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) hold requests in Orleans Parish Prison for more than 160 and 90 days respectively. ICE hold requests are supposed to be limited to 48 hours, according the federal agency’s rules.
NOWCRJ, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), and Orrick represented the plaintiffs in the litigation. The plaintiffs are members of NOWCRJ’s Congress of Day Laborers.
Over the past three years, the sheriff has faced pressure from prayer vigils, a unanimous New Orleans City Council resolution calling on him to stop submitting to immigration detainers, and a Department of Justice finding that raised serious constitutional concerns with his previous policy.
According to the new policy:
- Orleans Parish Prison will decline all ICE hold requests except on specific serious crimes. For individuals with those charges, the sheriff will defer to the recommendation of the criminal court.
- The Orleans Parish Sheriff will not investigate an individual’s immigration status.
- ICE may not conduct investigations into civil violations of immigration law in the jail. If ICE wants to conduct a criminal investigation in the jail, ICE must provide reasonable notice and opportunity for the individual’s attorney to be present at any interview.
“Together, the community and the sheriff have put New Orleans on the right side of history,” said Jacinta Gonzalez, lead immigration organizer for NOWCRJ. “The new policy respects the right of immigrant workers to remain in the communities they rebuilt.”
NOWCRJ legal director J.J. Rosenbaum said: “The sheriff’s previous policy led to systematic racial profiling and severe constitutional violations. The new policy can serve as a model both for local communities and policymakers in Washington, DC.”
Plaintiff and NOWCRJ member Antonio Ocampo said: “No one should be torn away from their family and spend more than 90 days in jail without a charge, the way I did. I am proud that because of our fight, no other worker in New Orleans will go through what I did.”
NILC staff attorney Melissa Keaney said: “Orleans Parish Prison has been emblematic of a national problem: when local law enforcement carry out immigration enforcement, severe constitutional violations follow. Lawmakers debating national immigration reform need to reject the broad criminalization found in proposals like the SAFE Act, and instead let immigrant communities take the lead in setting policies that actually make communities safer.”
More Information and Background
- New York Times article on the new policy
- Two-page backgrounder on campaign to win new policy
- New policy: full text
- One-page summary of new policy
- Settlement agreement
- New Orleans City Council resolution – May 2013
- DOJ findings letter on OPP – 2012
- Writ of habeas corpus for Antonio Ocampo – 2010
- Original Complaint – Feb. 2011
For plaintiff and NOWCRJ staff interviews, CONTACT:
Stephen Boykewich, email@example.com, 718-791-9162