About a dozen counties in Washington state are singled out in a new report from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. It’s the first of an ongoing weekly report that spotlights local jails considered “uncooperative” on federal immigration enforcement.
Immigrant advocates see this new report as a way to put pressure on cities or counties with so-called “sanctuary” policies.
In a statement, federal officials say the goal is to inform the public about crime and how some local jurisdictions limit their cooperation with ICE.
King , Snohomish, Skagit and Thurston are a few Washington counties that made the list.
The weekly report tracks a particular slice of immigration enforcement called detainers.
Here’s how they work: After someone is booked into jail, their information is shared in a federal database. ICE reviews the database for people with possible immigration violations then sends a detainer request for the jail to hold that inmate for 48 hours until ICE can take custody.
Courts have ruled detainers violate the Constitution and an individual’s due process rights. Jails throughout the country stopped honoring detainers a few years back, opting instead to release people after their time is served regardless of immigration status.
In this first report, Snohomish County was listed as one of the top 10 “non-compliance” counties with the most detainer requests. The report also called out specific detainers King County refused with “notable criminal activity,” including an assault conviction and a domestic violence charge.
“When law enforcement agencies fail to honor immigration detainers and release serious criminal offenders, it undermines ICE’s ability to protect the public safety and carry out its mission,” says acting ICE Director Thomas Homan in a written statement attached to the weekly report.
“This unsubstantiated claim is offensive to me,” said Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary in a statement Tuesday. “If ICE truly felt that these offenders were a danger to society, they would establish probable cause and seek an arrest warrant, just like any other law enforcement agency.”
According to Trenary, ICE has produced zero warrants at his jail since 2014, when a federal court ruling prompted his agency to stop honoring detainers.
“Not honoring ICE detainer requests has nothing to do with whether Snohomish County is a ‘sanctuary’ jurisdiction and has everything to do with following the letter of the law,” Trenary said.
Trenary also took issue with his agency’s designation as “uncooperative” since he said they have a clear track record of working with ICE on criminal investigations.
Slightly more than half of the 206 nationwide detainers included in the report cite charges, not convictions, as the notable criminal activity. In a written response to the report, immigrant advocates point out “we don’t call people criminals or say they’ve engaged in criminal activity until they are convicted after receiving the constitutional protections against false convictions.”