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The Indiana Daily Student

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Indiana AG Todd Rokita threatens legal action against Monroe County sheriff over undocumented immigrant policy in letter

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In a letter sent to Monroe County Sheriff Ruben Marté on May 14, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita demanded Monroe County rescind its local U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement policy. Rokita threatened legal action against the county “to compel its compliance with Indiana law” if he does not receive confirmation the policy has been rescinded by July 1.  

The Monroe County directive in question allows undocumented immigrants to be released from jail without being held for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement if they have connections to Monroe County and have been charged with low-level crimes. The policy has been part of Monroe County jail directives since 2014. In 2018, it was reviewed again and approved to stay by then-sheriff Brad Swain.  

In 2020, according to the Herald-Times and Indiana Public Media, Swain said his administration would still recognize an existing ICE flag on someone’s record and honor a specific ICE request to hold an individual, regardless of whether they had been booked on low-level charges.  

When someone is booked, Swain said, fingerprint information collected by the department enters a database accessible by ICE; federal immigration officials may then request Monroe County hold a detainee until ICE officials arrive, with a federal limit of up to 48 hours. Swain told the Herald-Times there is no signed agreement between ICE and the Monroe County Sheriff’s department regarding detainments, and holds on detainees are merely a courtesy. He said he would consider a person’s personal connections to Monroe County, prior criminal history and potential community security risk of release when determining whether he would detain someone for ICE. 

Rokita claimed in the letter that this directive violates a federal statute that prohibits states from limiting the sharing of citizenship information with federal immigration officials.  

However, the directive does not address information sharing at all; it only gives the Monroe County jail the discretion not to keep a detainee who would otherwise be eligible for release due to an acquittal, a posting of bond or other qualifier under state law. The department continues to use the ICE-accessible fingerprint database. 

A new state law signed by Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb in March gives Rokita the authority and capacity to take legal action against governments and universities that don’t comply with “statutes requiring cooperation with federal immigration officials.” The law, which Rokita cited in his letter, takes effect July 1. 

The Monroe County Sheriff’s Department was not immediately available for comment, but Chief Deputy Phil Parker previously wrote to Indiana Public Media that “the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office is currently engaged with the Attorney General’s office to determine the underlying issues associated with Attorney General Rokita’s letter.”  

Rokita also sent letters to city officials in East Chicago, Gary and West Lafayette threatening legal action over similar policies. 

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