President Trump has said he wants to take aim at sanctuary cities, and on Monday the Department of Homeland Security issued its first report calling out county jails that don’t cooperate with ICE 'detainer' requests.
A detainer request refers to a call by ICE officers to a county jail to request that an individual, arrested on a separate charge, is held for up to 48 hours past their scheduled date of release so ICE agents can determine if they want to pick up the individual, who could be subject for deportation.
Several Washington counties are included in the report, including Snohomish, King, Chelan, Clark, San Juan, Clallam, Jefferson, Whatcom and Skagit.
Snohomish is listed in the top ten counties with the most detainers issued and declined, at 12, during a one week period -- January 28 through February 3.
King County was listed in another section of the report highlighting detainers issued amid “notable criminal activity,” including domestic violence and assault.
The DHS document also noted that King County has certain criteria for honoring a detainer including conviction of homicide, per an ordinance passed in 2013.
However, the King County Executive's Office says the DHS report contained inaccurate information. In 2014, the county ordinance was amended to state that detainer requests will only be honored, if they're accompanied by a criminal warrant issued by a federal judge.
King County Sheriff John Urquhart doesn’t run the county’s jail, but he doesn’t agree with the new DHS tactic of calling out so-called sanctuary cities.
“I don't think it's going to force jurisdictions to cooperate at all, because in many cases you have independent sheriffs that are saying, 'no, we're not going to do this,” Sheriff Urquhart said. “And the reason these conservative areas and sheriffs are saying no is because, let's remember, all over the country, federal courts have said these detainers are unconstitutional. Unconstitutional, and yet they're still asking us to do, and there's something wrong with that.”
It was a federal court decision that put in place a number of the policies for Washington counties, including Whatcom and Snohomish who say they were caught off guard by Monday’s report.
Law enforcement and local leaders statewide also stress that ICE detainer requests are not court orders, or arrest warrants signed by a judge.
“If a court ordered us to hold someone we will,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “If this is a missive from a legislative body, or a bureaucrat, no. Not only is it not our responsibility, we don't believe it's legal for us to hold someone in jail just because a representative of the President said to.”
“What the federal government ought to be doing is going how come all of these places aren’t agreeing with us,” said Sheriff Urquhart. “They ought to be looking inwardly, rather than trying to shame other local jurisdictions. That’s really what’s going on here. They’re shaming local jurisdictions.”
Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary issued a statement on Tuesday, saying he was "baffled," to find his agency on the list of counties labeled as not cooperating.
"We have a clear track record of working with ICE when they are conducting a criminal investigation on one of our inmates," wrote Sheriff Trenary.
“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," continued the Sheriff.
Whatcom County’s Sheriff also cited the Miranda-Olivares v. Clackamas County 2014 decision as the reason why they make a policy of not honoring requests.
“Following the court decision, I consulted with the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. It was concluded that continuing the practice of honoring detainers by holding persons beyond their scheduled release time would subject Whatcom County and our deputies to liability for civil rights violations,” wrote Sheriff Bill Elfo in an email Monday.
“We work very closely with the Department of Homeland Security on a daily basis and locally, maintain excellent relationships. The Sheriff’s Office has not been contacted by anyone from ICE to complain that the current system is not effective. I have to conclude that Whatcom County’s listing appears to be the result of uninformed decisions being made within the context of a large bureaucracy,” Sheriff Elfo continued.
A spokeswoman said they can be expected weekly.