Could a judge’s release of an ICE-detained illegal immigrant signal trouble for Texas’s anti-sanctuary law?

U.S. District Court Judge Orlando Garcia freed Julio Trujillo, who was held 76 days in Bexar County jail on a detainer requested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“Routine detention … made it inevitable that it (the county) would engage in warrantless detention of individuals who were not suspected of any crime,” Garcia wrote in his decision.

Trujillo landed in the San Antonio hoosegow after allegedly assaulting his girlfriend last year. When the assault charges were dropped, Judge Garcia said Trujillo should have been freed – though under no obligation to leave the U.S. His whereabouts are unknown.

Also unknown is why Trujillo was kept behind bars long after the 48-hour limit that typically applies to detainers.

Without setting deadlines, ICE policy states that the agency “places detainers on aliens who have been arrested on local criminal charges and for whom ICE possesses probable cause to believe that they are removable from the United States, so that ICE can take custody of the alien when he or she is released from local custody.”

Trujillo – a Mexican national who re-entered the U.S. illegally after being deported in 2001 – is now part of a legal challenge to Texas’s Senate Bill 4, which requires local jails to honor ICE detainer requests. Judge Garcia will hear that case, too.

Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar, who has broken with fellow Democrat sheriffs by cooperating with ICE, won’t talk about Trujillo’s extended detention, which Judge Garcia blamed on a “paperwork error.”

ICE ducked FAIR’s questions about Trujillo’s case, saying the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

FAIR: Role of state and local enforcement in immigration matters

With no one taking responsibility, or offering a plausible explanation for the 76-day incarceration, open-border lawyers are seeking to exploit this case to assert that detainers are always unconstitutional for civil violations, a position Judge Garcia seemed to endorse in his decision to free Trujillo. Yet a detainer for illegal (criminal) re-entry after deportation (e.g., Trujillo) presents a different scenario. Based on Trujillo’s criminal reentry to the United States, ICE was on sound legal ground to issue a detainer request, although it is hard to conjure a credible scenario for why they could not act on that request within 76 days.

ICE, Sheriff Salazar and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton will get their day in court to argue sanctuary-detainer policies before Judge Garcia. Will Trujillo’s long-term jail stay undermine their case and kill SB 4?

The important legal question to be decided is whether SB 4’s requirement that ICE detainer requests be honored within the normal 48-hour time period. The eleven-week delay in acting on ICE’s detainer request for Trujillo is an aberration (and one that needs to be explained by ICE) and should not affect the legitimacy of Texas’s law requiring compliance with timely detainer requests from ICE.