Sanctuaries: 675 Jurisdictions Wouldn't Turn Over Criminal Aliens to ICE

Terence P. Jeffrey | January 26, 2018 | 4:38pm EST
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(Photo/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement)

( - Law enforcement agencies in approximately 675 jurisdictions around the United States declined to comply with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement “detainer” requests and hand over to ICE removable aliens whom those jurisdictions had arrested for violating local laws, according to the Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security.

According to the IG, this lack of cooperation from local law enforcement agencies has hindered ICE’s efforts to identify known or suspected foreign terrorists, who are inside the United States.

On Jan. 5, 2018, the IG issued a report--“ICE Faces Challenges to Screen Aliens Who May Be Known or Suspected Terrorists”—that discussed the issue.

“ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) faces challenges in implementing the Known or Suspected Terrorist Encounter Protocol (KSTEP) screening process, which is used to identify aliens who may be known or suspected terrorists,” the report said.

A section of this report was titled: “Some Local Law Enforcement Agencies Are Not Honoring ICE Detainers.”

Screen capture of passage from the DHS IG report "ICE Faces Challenges to Screen Aliens Who May be Known or Suspected Terrorists.

“Some local law enforcement agencies will not honor ICE immigration detainer requests, which further impacts ERO’s ability to take criminal aliens into its custody and apply KSTEP to identify possible terrorist connections,” this section said.  

“To bring these aliens into custody, ICE files detainers with the applicable law enforcement agency requesting to detain them upon their release,” it said.

“Based on source data provided by ERO’s Law Enforcement Systems and Analysis unit, we determined that approximately 675 jurisdictions nationwide declined to honor more than 29,269 ICE immigration detainers from January 2014 through May 2017,” the report said.

“When a state or local law enforcement agency declines to transfer custody of a removable criminal alien to ICE, the released alien may put the public and ERO personnel at risk and requires significantly more resources to bring the individual into ICE custody,” the IG report said.

ICE issues a “detainer” to a law enforcement agency only when an alien has been arrested by that agency and ICE has probable cause to believe the alien is removable from this country.

“ICE places detainers on aliens who have been arrested on local criminal charges and for whom ICE possesses probable cause to believe that they are removable from the United States, so that ICE can take custody of the alien when he or she is released from local custody,” says a statement on the ICE website.

“When law enforcement agencies fail to honor immigration detainers and release serious criminal offenders, it undermines ICE’s ability to protect public safety and carry out its mission,” says the statement.

An ICE policy document on the issuing detainers makes clear that the ICE officer issuing a detainer on a particular alien must have “probable cause” to believe that alien is removable and the officer can only issue the detainer after the alien has been arrested for “a criminal offense” in the jurisdiction of the law enforcement agency to which the detainer is issued.

“Regardless of whether a federal, state, local or tribal LEA [law enforcement agency] cooperates with DHS immigration detainers,” says the policy, “ICE immigration officers shall issue a detainer to the LEA for an alien in the LEA’s custody after the alien is arrested for a criminal offense and the officer has probable cause to believe that the subject is an alien who is removable from the United States.”

“ICE immigration officers must establish probable cause to believe that the subject is an alien who is removable from the United States before issuing a detainer with a federal, state, local or tribal LEA,” says the policy.

“[A]n ICE immigration officer shall not issue an immigration detainer to an LEA unless the LEA has arrested the alien for a criminal offense in an exercise of the LEA’s independent arrest authority,” says the policy. “ICE immigration officers shall not issue an immigration detainer for an alien who has been temporarily detained or stopped, but not arrested, by another LEA.”



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