SEATTLE - The King County Auditor’s Office has found the county violated parts of its own ordinance, effective March 2018, by providing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents access to personal information on people booked into county jails and to requested case files on people in contact with the King County Sheriff’s Office.
Ordinance 18665 expressly instructs the county not to provide ICE agents with personal information about King County residents without the existence of a judicial warrant requiring it.
The audit states that from March 2018 to April of 2019, 15 staff in ICE’s detention and removal unit logged into the jail’s nonpublic law enforcement look-up system more than 1,000 times.
That system, auditors said, gives users access to a much broader set of information than the public look-up system and the courts’ nonpublic look-up system, and includes photos, aliases and addresses.
Auditors said they do not know what exact information was accessed; therefore, they cannot say whether this access led to a deportation.
That access occurred, they said, even though the county code was specific about not allowing warrantless access to non-public databases. The audit states that the county had not done enough work to check the logs and understand who had access once the new ordinance was passed.
Auditors said once they notified the King County executive and the jail in April, the user accounts for ICE were turned off within a week.
They also found that the King County Sheriff’s Office provided unredacted case files to ICE agents from January 2018 to May 2019.
The report says ICE made 25 requests to the Sheriff’s Office for information, which the Sheriff’s Office is allowed to share if ICE is doing a criminal investigation for charges including human trafficking and has a warrant signed by a judge.
However, the report says, the Sheriff’s Office staff did not confirm the purpose of ICE’s requests before providing the files, which could include personal information on other people, as well.
Auditors stated the sheriff has told them it will no longer fulfill these requests for civil immigration enforcement without a criminal warrant or legal requirement.
The discoveries came about during an audit examining how the county protects residents’ personal identifiable information.
KIRO 7 will have more on the report and local reactions to it coming up on KIRO 7 News at 6 p.m. tonight. Watch on TV or here.
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