More counties joining Clallam, Jefferson in refusing to jail solely on immigration issues

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — A growing number of counties are joining Clallam and Jefferson in refusing to keep inmates in jail only at the request of federal immigration authorities.

Walla Walla, Kitsap, Thurston and Yakima counties are the latest to change their policies following a court decision in Oregon that found that detainer requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, are not commands that local jurisdictions have to obey.

In addition, county sheriffs could be liable for constitutional violations for holding people past the time when the detainees would otherwise be released.

Clallam and Jefferson counties have existing policies in which they do not detain immigrants on an ICE detainer alone.

“We do not detain illegal immigrants or anyone else unless they have committed a [Washington state] crime,” Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict said in an email.

“ICE reviews our jail roster and if they want to take custody of an immigrant through an immigration detainer, they will take the immigrant after local charges have been dealt with.”

Occasionally, a Clallam County inmate flagged by a detainer will be picked up by federal immigration authorities.

“But we will not hold and have not held anyone for the benefit of ICE or Border Patrol,” Benedict said.

Jefferson County Sheriff Tony Hernandez has kept a similar policy.

“Unless there's criminal charges, we're not going to do an ICE detainer,” Hernandez said.

He added: “We're not immigration officers.”

King County stopped complying last year with requests to detain people suspected of being in the United States illegally.

ICE spokesman Andrew Muņoz said the agency will continue to work “cooperatively with law enforcement partners” as it identifies removal of “convicted criminals.”

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: May 05. 2014 12:47AM
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