Earlier today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah (“ACLU of Utah”) and cooperating attorney B. Kent Morgan of The Dyer Law Group filed an amended complaint in federal district court in the case of Uroza v. Salt Lake County, et al.. The amended complaint alleges that officials and agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), an agency of the Department of Homeland Security, share responsibility for causing the unconstitutional and prolonged imprisonment of Enrique Uroza. The amended complaint also adds the United States as a defendant, alleging that its agents caused Mr. Uroza to be unlawfully imprisoned.
On June 13, 2011, Mr. Uroza, then a 22-year old Weber State University sophomore, appeared in Utah State Court to face criminal charges (which have since been dropped or resolved). That same day, the state court set bail, which Mr. Uroza posted almost immediately. Ignoring the bail, jail officials continued to hold Mr. Uroza. The next day, Tuesday June 14, ICE requested that the jail continue to hold Mr. Uroza for no more than 48 hours. Nonetheless, SLC Metro continued to detain Mr. Uroza until ICE agents picked him up from jail on July 22, 2011, 39 days after he posted bail. Before and during Mr. Uroza’s illegal incarceration, the ACLU of Utah and others had warned SLC Metro officials that their polices and practices were unconstitutional. Last year, the ACLU of Utah and Mr. Morgan filed a suit on Mr. Uroza’s behalf against Salt Lake County and Sheriff Winder challenging their policies and seeking compensation for his unlawful imprisonment.
“Today, we join officials and agents of ICE as defendants in this suit for their own policies and actions that lead to the unconstitutional deprivation of Mr. Uroza’s physical liberty,” said ACLU of Utah Staff Attorney Leah Farrell. “By refusing to release Mr. Uroza and others like him until ICE agents take custody, even when bail has been posted, Salt Lake County has created a de facto policy of indefinite detention without due process. Through their own practices, these ICE officials and agents supported the County’s policy and caused Mr. Uroza’s unlawful detention.”
“These ICE officials and agents must be held liable for their roles in causing Mr. Uroza’s harm here,” said Mr. Morgan, “and their policies that lead to unconstitutional detentions need to come to an end.”
ACLU of Utah’s Legal Director, John Mejia added, “No matter who you are, your right to be free from indefinite detention without bail or process is firmly enshrined in our Constitution, and that right is a hallmark of our free society. ICE’s policy and practice of working with local law enforcement agencies to detain people merely to investigate their immigration status has proven again and again to be a real threat to this right. Everyone’s liberty is at stake in holding people accountable for these policies and practices.”
Mr. Uroza commented, “Keeping people who have posted bail in jail with no way for them to even be heard is wrong. By adding federal officials and agents as defendants, maybe this case can have a wider impact in fighting this practice than just Salt Lake County.”
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