Longtime Brentwood Resident Files Complaint Against Suffolk County and ICE for Unconstitutional Immigration Detention


Contact: Christiaan Perez, 212-739-7581 or cperez@latinojustice.org; John Garcia, 917-673-9095 or jgarcia@latinojustice.org; Jill Shea, 312-558-3734 or jshea@winston.com

New York – A longtime Brentwood, N.Y. resident filed a complaint against Suffolk County, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and other defendants after being unconstitutionally detained by the Suffolk County Sheriff at the request of federal immigration agents after his bail had already been posted.

LatinoJustice PRLDEF and law firm Winston & Strawn LLP filed the complaint on behalf of Joaquin Orellana Castaneda, 34, a native of Guatemala who has lived on Long Island for the past twelve years. Orellana was arrested in Central Islip by Suffolk County police in the early morning of April 23, 2017 for violations of the New York Vehicle & Traffic Law. He was arraigned the same day before a Suffolk County district court judge, who set bail at $1,000, adjourned the case, and remanded him into custody of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office. Orellana’s family posted bail the following day, but the sheriff failed to release Orellana, who had been informed that he would be released when bail was posted. Instead, Orellana was held by the sheriff at the request of ICE agents, who had apparently issued an immigration detainer requesting that Suffolk County hold him for up to 48 additional hours.

The defendants acted in knowing disregard of the law. The New York State Sheriffs’ Association issued a report earlier this year concluding that “[s]heriffs should not detain persons beyond their normal release date based upon a federal detainer…unless there is also a judicial warrant.” In this case, the detainer issued by ICE was not accompanied by a judicial warrant.

As a result of his unlawful imprisonment, Orellana was detained at the jail for days beyond his scheduled release, and was subsequently transferred to ICE custody. He remains in custody at Bergen County Jail and is scheduled to appear in immigration court on July 20. “The current political climate regarding immigration issues has created an environment where situations such as Mr. Orellana’s are occurring all too often,” said Juan Cartagena, president and general counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “The ugly anti-immigrant history in Suffolk County has created an environment where Latinos have been routinely stopped by the police on the basis of their racial appearance for driving while brown. It directly enabled a Suffolk County Police Sergeant to routinely stop and rob Latino motorists for several years before finally being arrested.”

Winston & Strawn has a strong history of challenging illegal enforcement policies in immigration. Here, Winston is challenging in Suffolk County the same practices that have already been found by a federal court in Illinois to violate federal statutes. That case was Moreno v. Napolitano, No. 11-CV-05452 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 11, 2011), brought by a Winston team in conjunction with the National Immigrant Justice Center. Winston also successfully partnered with LatinoJustice in New York to achieve a landmark settlement in 2013 in Aguilar v. ICE, as a result of which ICE changed its policies nationwide with respect to its practice of warrantless pre-dawn raids on immigrant homes. Winston is thrilled to work again with LatinoJustice to ensure that our nation’s immigration enforcement policies are applied fairly and in accordance with the law.

“We are greatly concerned about the Sheriff’s sudden post-election about face and decision to again begin enforcing ICE detainers,” said Jose Perez, deputy general counsel and legal director of LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “Sheriff DeMarco had previously ceased enforcing immigration detainers after a 2014 advisory opinion by the Suffolk County Attorney advising that by accepting detainers and holding an individual beyond their scheduled release date without a judicial warrant would subject the County to potential liability for illegally incarcerating someone in violation of their constitutional rights.”

LatinoJustice and Winston & Strawn are seeking a judgment declaring the defendants’ detention of Orellana illegal, and monetary damages for his illegal detention. The case was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York and is captioned Joaquin Orellana Castaneda v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, et al. You can see the filing here.

Around the country, courts have ruled that ICE detainers are unconstitutional when they are not supported by what is called “judicial probable cause.” Here, consistent with ICE practice, no judge approved the detainer before it was issued. When local police agencies hold a person on an unconstitutional detainer, they can subsequently be held liable for the illegal detention.

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