People gather for a photo outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices during an immigration vigil, on April 10, 2013, in Las Vegas.
Julie Jacobson/AP

Las Vegas police defy federal immigration policy

In a major win for immigration advocates, the Las Vegas Metro Police Department is joining a swell of major cities refusing to comply with requests from federal officials to detain undocumented immigrants for longer than their jail terms.

“This change has nothing to do with me taking a stand on the immigration issue,” Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie said in a statement, according to NBC News. “It has more to do with a situation we’ve found ourselves in and this is the best thing to do until the feds figure it out.”

Las Vegas is the latest major city to defy Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, just one week after Los Angeles became the largest city in the country to challenge the practice.

Under a federal “Secured Communities” program, local law enforcement are asked to share any information on undocumented immigrants, including fingerprints, with federal officials. They’re are also asked to hold potentially deportable immigrants until federal agents arrive to take the inmates into custody. However, a growing number of municipalities are refusing to comply with federal agents after local police complained that the practice is deterring immigrant communities from reporting crimes out of fear of being flagged for deportation.

A district court decision in Oregon this past April paved the way for more local agencies to push back on the practice after a federal judge ruled that a woman’s constitutional rights were violated when she was held by immigration officials beyond her release date. The court ruled that counties could be liable for damages if they detain someone solely because of their immigration status.

In Las Vegas, either a judge must now decide whether there is “probable cause” to detain a person for longer than their initial jail term, or police must obtain a warrant from the judge’s chambers in order to comply with the ICE request.

“The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department continues to work with our federal law enforcement partners and will continue to provide professional service to the Las Vegas community regardless of their immigration status in United States,” Gillespie said in a statement.