May 14, 2014
Vol: 21 No: 20

News

Local governments giving the cold shoulder to ICE detainment requests

By Aaron Burkhalter , Staff Reporter

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A growing number of cities and towns are declining federal immigration authorities’ requests to hold suspects longer than warranted by probable cause.

Twelve Washington counties announced that they will no longer hold people at the request of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and other counties may soon follow suit.

In April, a U.S. District judge found that the Clackamas County Jail violated a woman’s Fourth Amendment rights by holding her for immigration authorities without probable cause.

Because ICE officials requested a “detainer,” officials at the jail refused to allow the woman in custody to post bail and held her for an additional day after she was due to be released. ICE officials suspected that she was in the country illegally and could be subject to deportation.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Washington and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) oppose detainers and have increased pressure on Washington counties to stop the controversial practice.

In addition to violating constitutional rights, the practice of using detainers forces law enforcement agencies to use local resources to do federal work, said Jorge Barón, executive director of NWIRP. That costs counties money and engenders fear among immigrant communities, who are less likely to report a crime they witness if they think that a local officer is acting as a federal agent.

“We’re spending money subsidizing ICE’s work,” Barón said. “It creates a bad situation where community members see local law enforcement as immigration enforcement agents.”

The King County Council decided in December that the county jail would no longer hold people for ICE. Eleven counties announced policy changes in the last several months, including Chelan, Cle Elum, Clark, Franklin, Kitsap, Skagit, Spokane, Thurston, Walla Walla, Whatcom and Yakima, Barón said.

The NWIRP and ACLU are asking Washington’s remaining 27 counties to also change their policies. The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office is considering the rule change and will make a decision soon, said spokesperson Shari Ireton. 

Mitch Barker, executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs & Police Chiefs, said law enforcement agencies were simply following what they believed was the law. Barker said it’s the federal government’s responsibility to clearly define the laws for ICE detainers.

“We thought we were being directed under legal authority,” Barker said.

Barker agreed, however, that detainers have deterred people in immigrant communities from reporting crimes to law enforcement.

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Comments

At the 32nd Legislative District Democrats meeting on Wednesday night, the Snohomish County Sheriff said they are no longer complying with ICE detainer requests.

Kristina Logsdon | submitted on 05/16/2014, 10:00am


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