Judge says federal government needs representation over immigration lawsuit

Detention CenterLast week a federal court judge ruled that the US government will have to respond to accusations that undocumented immigrants are being unlawfully detained at San Juan County Adult Detention Center on behalf of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This follows the filing of a class action lawsuit by three Mexican immigrants against San Juan County Board of Commissioners last November, with the three immigrants spending time in the center between 2012 and 2014.

The immigrants’ attorneys claim that their civil rights were violated when they were detained with a complete lack of due cause due to ICE agents still being in the process of determining their immigration status. US District Court judge William P Johnson said that the attorneys had made a mistake in their lawsuit, however, by not naming the agency as the defendant.

In a written order filed on the 26th of last month, Johnson stated that the “constitutional parameters” of immigration policy in the United States could potentially be defined as a result of the lawsuit and that the government would therefore need someone to defend its program in the courtroom.

Attorney Scott Eaton, who is representing Tom Havel ‒ the administrator of the detention center ‒ and the San Juan County Board of Commissioners, previously requested the inclusion of the US government as a defendant, saying that detainers are not issued by the county and neither does the county decide when detainers should be issued. He believes that since the federal government created detainers to assist with immigration enforcement, it is therefore its responsibility to respond to allegations in court.