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Suit Challenges Coconino County Jail's Immigration Policy

Flagstaff Dark Skies Coalition

A lawsuit is challenging a Northern Arizona jail's practice of detaining inmates longer than required by local or state charges through holds requested by federal immigration officials.

Inmate Guillermo Tenorio-Serrano filed the suit last month against Coconino County officials to challenge the constitutionality of the jail policy that honors immigration detainer requests, the Arizona Daily Sun reported this week.

The Coconino County jail has held inmates for up to two days longer than required, allowing Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to take custody of people suspected of being in the country illegally.

Tenorio-Serrano was arrested on misdemeanor charges related to driving under the influence in December. Jail staff notified immigration agents who then sent an administrative warrant and a detainer request.

While Tenorio-Serrano, 32, could have made bail, he chose not to so he could avoid being taken into custody by ICE agents.

Jail policy requires staff to comply with detainer requests. Sheriff Jim Driscoll, who is named in the suit, said the policy adheres with a state law that mandates agencies to generally cooperate with and assist in the enforcement of federal immigration laws.

"Cooperation to me is that a federal agency makes a request of us, I am going to try to comply with that," Driscoll said. "Is the request legal? That's for the courts to determine."

In a statement issued this week, the Coconino County Board of Supervisors said the lawsuit will serve as an opportunity to get a final ruling on the constitutionality of parts of the state law.

Kathryn Mahady, the attorney for Tenorio-Serrano, claims that prolonging the detention of inmates violates both the Arizona Constitution and the U.S. Constitution.

Mahady said she will ask the court to give the lawsuit class-action status on behalf of additional individuals.

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