Washington counties among nation's least cooperative with ICE

Washington counties are among the nation’s least cooperative with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The Department of Homeland Security published a “detainer report” showing which local law enforcement agencies failed to comply with orders from ICE.

A "detainer" requests that a local law enforcement agency notify ICE as early as 48 hours before an illegal immigrant is released from criminal custody. The detainer also asks that local enforcement briefly maintain custody of the illegal immigrant for DHS to assume custody for removal purposes.

The report named jurisdictions that declined to detain immigrants who could be subject to deportation.

The following Washington state counties have publicly said they will not honor ICE detainers:

  • San Juan County
  • Clallam County 
  • Jefferson County
  • Whatcom County
  • Skagit County
  • Clark County (an exception is made if ICE has a probable cause affidavit) 
  • Cowlitz County
  • Snohomish County
  • Thurston County
  • King County 

The data comes from the week of Jan. 28 through Feb. 3. ICE has said that it will now issue a similar report on a weekly basis. Read the report here. During the week this data was collected, ICE also noted the inmates released from local custody around the country, despite ICE asking that they be detained.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee, a Democrat, referred to court rulings that jails honoring detainers violate the U.S. Constitution.

"We follow the law in the State of Washington," Inslee said. "There's no law about something called a detainer. It's kind of a figment of someone's imagination. There is a thing called an arrest warrant."

ICE declined an interview request by KIRO 7 but an official wrote that when the agency files a detainer, it is to enforce a civil matter, and there is no mechanism for a federal judge or magistrate to issue an arrest warrant in civil matters. The official added the detainer forms contain a probable cause statement.

Matt Adams, an attorney with the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, notes that when all inmates enter jail, their information is entered into a database available to ICE, whose agents often arrest people on immigration charges after they are released.

About King County and ICE

Among the jurisdictions that knowingly declined detainers, King County released three inmates that week.

According to ICE, one person, from Vietnam, was released from the King County Regional Justice Center after being charged with domestic violence. Another person, from Guatemala, was convicted of assault and released from the SCORE Jail in Des Moines. A third person, from Honduras, was also released from SCORE and has a conviction for domestic violence.

"They're trying to shame local jurisdictions for not doing what is illegal," said King County Sheriff John

Urquhart referenced federal court cases in which judges have found ICE detainers unconstitutional. By issuing a detainer, ICE is asking a local jurisdiction to hold a person for up to 48 hours past his release date, until a federal agent can look into the situation.

King County only honors detainers if the person has been convicted of a violent, serious, sex or serious traffic offense within the last 10 years.

Urquhart said the rules were created before some of the federal rulings that determined the unconstitutionality of detainers.

"It doesn't matter what the underlying criminal history is, or what they were arrested for. That doesn't change that these have been said to be unconstitutional," he said.

Urquhart emphasized that he needs people to feel safe calling 911. He said that if immigrants are afraid of being deported, they won’t cooperate with local law enforcement agencies in reporting crimes.

“It’s not us that’s creating the bad public safety situation. It’s ICE,” he said.

He added that if ICE needs to deport someone, the agency can get a judicial warrant to do so.

About Snohomish County and ICE

ICE said it issued 12 detainers during a one-week period to Snohomish County, a jurisdiction known for not complying with detainers on a routine basis.

Snohomish County tied with Montgomery County, Iowa, as the fourth in the nation for having the highest number of ICE detainers issued to a regularly noncompliant jurisdiction. But ICE does not yet know how these jurisdictions responded to the detainers.

Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary issued the following statement on Tuesday: 

"Yesterday, the Department of Homeland Security issued an "Immigration and Customs Enforcement Declined Detainer Outcome Report" which included the "highest volume of detainers issued to non-cooperative jurisdictions between January 28, 2017 and February 3, 2017." The Snohomish County Sheriff's Office was included in a list of jurisdictions across the U.S. that do not comply with ICE detainer requests. In an accompanying news release, Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan stated that when local law enforcement fails to honor ICE detainers "…it undermines ICE's ability to protect the public safety…"

That is simply untrue. This unsubstantiated claim is offensive to me and the communities that I and the men and women of the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office proudly serve.  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. Since our policy to no longer honor detainer requests has been in place, ICE has produced zero warrants at our jail.

I am also baffled as to why my agency would be listed as a county that has a policy of "non-cooperation", as we have a clear track record of working with ICE when they are conducting a criminal investigation on one of our inmates.

As with most of the Sheriff's Offices who operate large jails in Washington and Oregon, Snohomish County has not honored ICE detainers since April 2014. This was as a result of the federal district court decision, Miranda-Olivares v. Clackamas County, which ruled that honoring ICE detainers without probable cause is a violation of the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  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.

My agency's mission is Community First, and I believe in policies and processes that maximize public safety, while treating everyone fairly, with dignity and respect."

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