The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear a controversial immigration case from Maryland. According to a story on Fox News, the high court won’t hear Frederick County’s appeal of a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision. The case will now go back to U.S. District Court in Baltimore for final rulings.
The decision all but finalizes a victory in the case for Roxana Santos, a Salvadoran immigrant who claimed Frederick County law enforcement officers and Sheriff Chuck Jenkins violated her Fourth Amendment rights against illegal search and seizure. Santos said officers detained her and checked her immigration status only because she looked Hispanic. Santos was detained in jail for 45 days, according to The Baltimore Sun. She has also accused the sheriff’s office of profiling.
"It's an extremely significant decision in that it makes clear that local law enforcement should stay out of immigration affairs," said Sirine Shebaya of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland. "It draws a really bright line."
The lower court had originally dismissed her suit, but Santos won an appeal in August. She has been seeking $1 million in damages but has said she would drop the case if the sheriff’s department revised its policies.
The police officers involved in the case said they stopped Santos because she tried to hide from them as they passed by while she ate her lunch outside her workplace.
Vice President of the Frederick County Commission C. Paul Smith said the ruling was "better for those who are doing something strange and breaking the law” than it was for police.
"We need to separate the immigration issue from it," he said. "If something looks strange, you like [the police] to look into it. She sees the police and runs away. Golly, how are you going to articulate that standard of what constitutes illegal?”
While county officials may not be happy with the ruling, a bill currently being considered in the state legislature would render their objections moot. The bill, dubbed the Maryland Enforcement Trust Act, is up for a committee vote this week. Should it become law, it would mean that state and local officials cannot detain people or deny bail because of immigration-related infractions.