The Trump administration on Monday opened up its first line of attack on so-called sanctuary cities, naming jurisdictions that decline to detain immigrants who could be subject to deportation.
The report lays out 206 declined “detainers” that were registered in Immigrations and Customs Enforcement databases during the week of January 28 to February 3. Detainers are requests by ICE to local law enforcement agencies to hold certain individuals ICE believes could be deported for up to an extra 48 hours beyond the criminal process so they can be picked up by ICE.
President Donald Trump ordered the Department of Homeland Security to issue the reports, called the Weekly Declined Detainer Outcome Report, in an executive order in January.
In the report, DHS lays out the type of crime for which the individual was either charged or convicted, where they were arrested and the request was declined.
DHS also lists the 10 counties — none of them in California — that regularly do not comply with such requests that had the most declined detainers, and includes a table listing scores of counties, cities and agencies that have policies to not cooperate with ICE in various ways, including whether it’s a law, regulation or policy.
“This is an effort for us to be transparent with regards to how we conduct our enforcement operations and the public safety from those agencies that don’t cooperate with those enforcement efforts,” said a senior DHS official in a briefing call with reporters.
Every law enforcement agency shares biometric data, like fingerprints, with the FBI, which shares them with ICE. If ICE believes it has “probable cause” to believe that arrested person could be a deportable immigrant, it issues a detainer request.
Some local law enforcement agencies and cities have instituted policies of not cooperating with every detainer in part because of concern about relationships with the community. The fear is that if community members believed that if they interact with police in any way their information could be sent to ICE for potential deportation, regardless of the seriousness of a potential crime, they will be afraid to cooperate with police even in cases where they are helping to prevent and stop crime.
There are also concerns about due process. Some jurisdictions feel that legally, without a warrant from ICE, they cannot detain individuals beyond the extent otherwise dictated by criminal law. There is also concern that because people may only be charged with a crime and not convicted, they could be deported before the conclusion of a trial.
The DHS official said the department believes detainer requests are legal, and said jurisdictions could at least be forthcoming about when criminals are being released.
“You’re a law enforcement agency; you have an obligation, I would say, to find a way to make it work,” the official said. “You don’t release a person from your custody if ICE is looking for them. If your legal shop tells you can’t hold them, you find a way, you get to yes to protect the safety and security of your community. And that’s the fundamental problem that we’re facing today, and that’s why this report is so important.”
Asked about the report, Philadelphia City Councilwoman Helen Gym said she had a simple response to ICE: “Get a warrant.”
Sanctuary policies in her city are the product of years of experience, Gym said, calling ICE “incredibly sloppy” and adding that most detainer requests are not for dangerous criminals but rather non-dangerous individuals who live in communities where honoring the detainers could spread fear of police. Instead, ICE should identify its most serious targets and get warrants to pick them up rather than “exploit” local resources for further detention, she said.
“This is not something that counties just come up with off the top of our heads,” Gym said. “They were born out of real experiences and problems that we’ve had in doing ICE’s work for them. And ICE has to stop being so lazy and sloppy with their work and follow procedures that law enforcement does if they believe there’s someone dangerous on the street.”
According to the report, the top 10 non-cooperating counties for declined detainers are Clark County, Nevada; Nassau County, New York; Cook County, Illinois; Montgomery County, Iowa; Snohomish County, Washington; Franklin County, New York; Washington County, Oregon; Alachua County, Florida; Franklin County, Iowa; and Franklin County, Pennsylvania.
The 206 declined detainers were noted in the week of January 28, but some of the detainers were issued long before Trump became president, including back to 2014. DHS explained that the data only covers when a detainer was confirmed to be declined.
Separately, that week, ICE issued 3,083 detainers, but it was not yet clear how many of those were honored or declined due to lags in reporting.
Crimes included convictions and charges of domestic violence, driving under the influence, forgery, assault, drugs, traffic offenses and homicide.
DHS officials repeatedly said they believe the detainer requests and refusals will increase in subsequent reports as Trump’s strict immigration policies are carried out.
They said some of the data captured in this week’s report, despite the detainers being years old in some cases, were due to officers just confirming the declination and entering them in the system. The officials also said the agency has resumed sending detainer requests to jurisdictions that they know will not honor them.
An official denied any pressure on ICE officials to boost numbers in advance of the report, saying entering the declined detainers is a “normal function” of officer’s daily job.