April 12, 2017

Chicago, IL- An Illinois man who has been unlawfully detained by the Lake County Sheriff’s Office on an indefinite "immigration hold" is asking a federal court to step in, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.

MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) filed the legal challenge on behalf of Emil J. Santos, a Honduran national who was arrested on April 1. Since then, Santos has been in custody at the Lake County jail in Waukegan, IL, even though a judge ordered him released on $20,000 bond.

At issue is the county’s practice of holding immigrants in jail for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) without probable cause and after a judge has ordered them released on bail. Federal courts across the country have ruled that detaining individuals on "immigration holds" beyond the time when they would have otherwise been released from the local jail is unconstitutional.

"It is a basic and long-established constitutional doctrine that a sheriff may not hold any person indefinitely and without sufficient legal cause," said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel. "Every jurisdiction should understand that rhetoric and threats from the president or attorney general will not shield you from liability for violating the Constitution."

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, asks the court to declare that Mr. Santos’ detention violates his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, and to order his immediate release.

The petition names as defendants Lake County Sheriff Mark C. Curran, Jr., and an unidentified officer at the detention facility.

Similar legal challenges filed in Oregon, Texas, Pennsylvania and elsewhere have led courts to find local jurisdictions liable for the wrongful detention of immigrants held solely on ICE detainers. As a result, a growing number of local law enforcement agencies have publicly declined to honor federal immigration requests.

"The Lake County Sheriff does not have the authority to circumvent the judge’s decision to set bail," said Veronica Cortez, MALDEF staff attorney. "Sheriff Curran’s unconscionable actions have punished not only Mr. Santos, but also his family and other immigrants whose due process protections are threatened."

Mr. Santos, 31, has been in the United States for 16 years and has three children who are U.S. citizens. He works two jobs – one as a cook, the other as a factory worker – and his unlawful detention deprives his children of financial support, according to the lawsuit. He is contesting his arrest on a domestic battery charge.

Read the complaint HERE.

Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the "Latino Legal Voice for Civil Rights in America" MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit:

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund