Immigration Detainer: Federal Court Solves Big Problem!

 On March 4, 2014, the US Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit issued a very important ruling.

The case is called Galarza v. Szalczyk.

The 3rd Circuit ruled that an immigration detainer is NOT mandatory.

Rather, when Homeland Security lodges an immigration detainer, it is a request to a criminal detention facility to hold a person for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to take him into federal custody.

Galarza was arrested in Allentown, Pennsylvania and charged with drug conspiracy.

Local police called Immigration. Galarza put up criminal bail. But he was not let out of jail.


There was an immigration detainer.

  • This case is really insane since Galarza is a US citizen who attempted to prove his citizenship to the jail.
  • The federal court just ruled that the immigration detainer was not lawful.
  • Galarza nevertheless was kept in jail for several days after paying bail.
  • Finally Immigration talked with him.
  • Then they removed the immigration detainer.
  • By the way Galarza was also acquitted on the drug case.

Galarza sued as he alleged a violation of his civil rights.

The 3rd Circuit found that the local police as well as Homeland Security (which set the immigration detainer) were not immune from suit.

The defendant Lehigh County argued that an immigration detainer is mandatory.

Again, the 3rd Circuit ruled that an immigration detainer is NOT mandatory:

the federal government cannot command the government agencies

of the states to imprison persons of interest to federal officials”

Conclusion:  anyone who is arrested, immigrant in US legally, US citizen, or undocumented immigrant, would be well advised to pay bail immediately.

A criminal detention facility cannot continue detention after bail is posted.

The federal court has solved a big problem.

For many years, criminal courts and county jails would not release someone with an immigration detainer.

Looks like things have changed.

Note: the 3rd Circuit decision in the Galarza case affects immigration matters in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

Written by: Harlan York

Immigration Attorney Harlan York is Former Chair, Immigration Section, NJ State Bar Association and Former Co-Chair, NY State Bar Association CFLS Immigration Committee. Mr. York appeared on National Television on CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose and Primer Impacto on Univision, as well as Telemundo, NBC, and PBS. He was honored as First Ever Immigration Lawyer of The Year in NJ by Best Lawyers.

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