Rokita is threatening legal action over ICE policies at the Monroe County Jail

A harsh letter to Monroe County Sheriff Ruben Marté from Attorney General Todd Rokita demands that the county rescind its written policy regarding the detention of undocumented immigrants or face legal action.

If the policy is not off the jail’s books by July 1, the state will “enforce compliance with Indiana law,” the letter said.

After receiving the May 14 letter, the sheriff began researching the history of the jail’s current policies and the impact of a new state law proposed by District 44 Sen. Eric Koch, a Republican from Bedford.

Signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb in March, it gives Rokita authority and legal basis to go after governments or universities that fail to comply with statutes requiring cooperation with federal immigration officials.

“The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office is currently in discussions with the Attorney General’s Office to determine the underlying issues surrounding Attorney General Rokita’s letter,” MCSO Chief Deputy Phil Parker said when referred to the case asked.

The local Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) policy, which has been part of Monroe County’s jail guidelines since 2014, was reviewed and approved in 2018 by then-Sheriff Brad Swain. It allows the release of people who are in the country illegally, but with local ties. out of jail when charged with low-level crimes, rather than being held for federal immigration detention. Federal law allows ICE holds of 48 hours.

In 2020, Swain said there was no written rule, but instead a mutual understanding between local and federal officials about which detainees would be held for ICE officials. Book-in fingerprints go into a national database that allows ICE to know who has been arrested.

Swain said at the time that he considered the arrested person’s local connections, criminal history and risk to the public in deciding whether to report the arrest to federal authorities.

Rokita claims that the Monroe County Jail directive violates a federal statute that prohibits rules or policies that restrict the disclosure of citizenship information to immigration enforcement agents.

He also sent letters to city leaders in East Chicago, Gary and West Lafayette, demanding that local policies “that enable illegal immigration” in those cities be repealed. If not, they “will face swift legal consequences effective July 1.”

The tone of Monroe County’s letter is somewhat threatening. “Unless the detention directive is repealed on or before July 1, there will likely be grounds to file a lawsuit against the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office to enforce compliance with Indiana law – and I will do so. ”

In a press release, Rokita said that “the flow of illegal immigrants entering the United States is a problem that harms us all. Those paying the price for this lawlessness are Hoosier taxpayers, who must bear the higher costs for health care, education and other services used by illegal immigrants.”

Contact HT reporter Laura Lane at [email protected] or 812-318-5967.

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