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Cincinnati, OH — Nick Swartsell of CityBeat is out with an important article about immigration practices at the Hamilton County Justice Center that violate the U.S. Constitution and local policy–and defy common sense.
Swartsell describes the case of Manuel Ventura-Pineda, an asylum-seeker from El Salvador, whose family has been repeatedly harassed by another man. Ventura-Pineda was arrested during a recent altercation with the man, Charles Brewster, who has a prior conviction for threatening the Ventura family with a gun and a documented history of racial animus towards them.
Now, Ventura-Pineda’s misdemeanor arrest, for an act taken in self-defense, is having life-changing consequences. Because he is an immigrant, the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency put a “hold” on him and is preparing to deport him. Swartsell writes:
Even if Ventura pays the $1,500 bond levied by the court, he faces detention by ICE due to the hold. That has triggered a federal lawsuit in the U.S. Southern Ohio District Court, filed by attorney Charleston Wang, alleging ICE and the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office are violating Ventura-Pineda’s constitutional rights.
Beyond the individual details, the case is significant as a hazy window into the relationship between the county, home to self-proclaimed immigrant-friendly sanctuary city Cincinnati, and ICE, which has ramped up enforcement efforts around the “zero tolerance” immigration policies of President Trump’s administration.
The sheriff’s office declined to comment on emailed questions about the case and the means by which ICE learns about county jail detainees in order to place holds on them. Immigration attorneys, however, believe the sheriff’s office is actively working with ICE in contradiction to an agreement between immigrant advocates and Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil.
As the article points out, “Federal courts in Illinois, Texas and other states have ruled that such practices around ICE detainers violate the Fourth Amendment. Ventura’s suit also alleges that the practice violates the Fifth and Sixth Amendments.” A recent piece from the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) explains the multiple ways that courts have found local governments’ cooperation with ICE “holds,” also known as “detainers,” violate the law.
The problems of this specific case do not stop with Ventura-Pineda’s unconstitutional detention without probable cause. The article raises serious questions about the role that local governments are playing in implementing a Trump Administration policy that puts deportation ahead of everything else.
For example, why was Ventura-Pineda charged with a crime, and not Charles Brewster? Given Brewster’s “history of menacing the family,” which had resulted in at least one previous conviction, and his role in the altercation, the differing treatment here is simply unexplainable.
What’s more, the article goes on to say that “Both Camacho and Ventura are involved in a wage theft case in which an out of town developer who received subsidies from the city is accused of stealing their wages and the wages of more than two dozen other workers.”
It is hard to understand why holding these men in jail for deportation, instead of allowing them to serve as witnesses in the wage theft case, should take priority. The Cincinnati Interfaith Workers Center sent letters to the Hamilton County Sheriff and Mayor John Cranley expressing their deep concern over their handling of these cases.
The Ventura-Pineda example has also exposed an unusual level of collusion between the county sheriff’s office and federal immigration enforcement. Swartsell writes: “The lawsuit points out that the sheriff’s website listed Ventura with a hold shortly after he arrived at the justice center in the early hours of July 27. But ICE did not fax its I-200 form, which orders detainers, until hours later, at about 9 a.m. that morning.”
Not only is the sheriff’s office holding Ventura-Pena unconstitutionally, as a favor for ICE, but it did so even before the request had been officially made.
Lynn Tramonte, Director of America’s Voice Ohio, said: “It’s the height of hypocrisy for local government and law enforcement to violate the law in their efforts to ‘enforce’ it. Thankfully, CityBeat exposed this outrageous incident in Hamilton County. Now, the city and county government need to get on the right side of the law.”