February 15, 2018

(Chicago, IL) - A lawsuit challenging the Lake County Sheriff’s Office decision to detain a Honduran man for immigration purposes despite a judge’s order to release him will move forward, a federal judge ruled this week.

MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) filed the legal challenge on behalf of Emil J. Santos, a Honduran national whose U.S. citizen child is battling cancer, arguing that the sheriff’s decision to honor federal immigration "detainers" violates immigrants’ Fourth Amendment rights against illegal seizures and arbitrary detention.

"Every person has a right to be spared any imprisonment without adequate constitutional cause," said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel. "This case moves forward to challenge the defendants’ callous disregard of the plaintiff’s right to be with his family."

Mr. Santos was arrested on April 1, 2017. A judge ordered his release on $20,000 bond, but the Sheriff’s department kept him in custody at the Lake County jail for 11 days on a request from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) known as a "detainer." He was subsequently transferred to ICE and deported shortly thereafter.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, also argues that Mr. Santos’ Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated.

Mr. Santos, 31, had been working two jobs – one as a cook, the other as a factory worker – to provide for his three U.S.-born children. His wife and children, including one who is still in cancer treatment, remain in the United States.

At the time of Mr. Santos’ detention, Lake County Sheriff Mark C. Curran, Jr. was routinely honoring ICE requests to hold immigrants without probable cause of a crime. Illinois has since passed legislation prohibiting local law enforcement agencies from detaining individuals on "immigration holds" beyond the time when they would otherwise have been released from the local jail. Several federal court rulings have held that such detentions are unconstitutional.

"ICE policies and procedures are indiscriminately tearing families apart," said MALDEF staff attorney Veronica Cortez. "Separating Mr. Santos from his three little girls is yet more evidence that the current federal administration is intent on fomenting fear and hardship in immigrant communities. Local law enforcement must not abet this unconscionable campaign."

Several defendants, including Sheriff Curran and two Sheriff’s office employees, filed a motion to dismiss the Santos lawsuit. On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Sara L. Ellis ruled that the case can move forward absent one claim against an unidentified Lake County Sheriff’s employee. Judge Ellis set a March 2 deadline for the defendants to answer the remaining allegations in the case.

Read the court’s decision here.

Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the "Latino Legal Voice for Civil Rights in America" MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit:

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund