Canyon County Illegally Detained Man Over Immigration Status, Lawsuit Alleges

May 28, 2019

Another federal lawsuit has been filed against Canyon County accusing it of illegally holding someone based on an immigration detainer.


Ramon Rodriguez Espinoza was arrested in May 2017 and was taken to Canyon County Jail on a misdemeanor telephone harassment charge.

According to the lawsuit, his daughter paid a $1,000 bond, but her father wasn’t released for nearly 24 hours – and only after a lawyer sent a letter to the sheriff’s office.

That’s because the suit says Espinoza was also being held on an immigration detainer from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

ICE says it had “reliable evidence” that Espinoza was in the country illegally, according to court documents. The agency asked Canyon County authorities to give them 48-hours’ notice of when he would be released so they could take him into custody.

“[Canyon County] is deliberately indifferent to the constitutional rights of persons who are the subject of an immigration detainer or other request by immigration officials to hold an individual beyond the period when they would otherwise be released from criminal custody,” the suit says.

Maria Andrade, Espinosa’s lawyer, says Espinoza has since asked federal officials to cancel his deportation because it would cause an "exceptionally unusual hardship" to his immediate family. The outcome of that appeal won't be known until October at the earliest.

Andrade says her firm, Immigrant Justice Idaho, has been in "frequent and good faith communications" with Canyon County to try to create a policy surrounding federal immigration detainers. 

Other states have wrestled with how to handle these requests from ICE, since deportation is a civil matter — not a criminal one. The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled in 2017 that officers there had no authority to make an arrest based on a civil immigration detainer.  

"It's a practice that's fraught with vulnerabilities," Andrade said. 

It's the third such lawsuit filed by her firm. One case was settled and the other is still ongoing.

A Canyon County spokesperson says they don’t comment on pending litigation.

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