Immigration agency puts detainer ‘shame’ reports on hold

EVERETT — The Trump administration has stopped producing a weekly scorecard of law enforcement agencies it says are not cooperating with stepped-up federal efforts to deport those in the country illegally.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said they’ve suspended publishing the report that sought on a weekly basis to name those agencies declining to honor the most ICE requests to detain individuals behind bars indefinitely without a warrant.

This reboot comes after just three editions of the Declined Detainer Outcome Report, including the inaugural one that listed the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office among those considered the most uncooperative.

Numerous mistakes discovered in each edition prompted the action Tuesday. Officials issued a formal statement and noted the decision on its website.

“ICE remains committed to publishing the most accurate information available regarding declined detainers across the country and continues to analyze and refine its reporting methodologies,” ICE officials said in the statement.

“While this analysis is ongoing, the publication of the Declined Detainer Outcome Report will be temporarily suspended.”

That pleased law enforcement officials, political leaders and civil liberties advocates who had been sharply critical of the accuracy and purpose of the reports.

“When I saw the list I took it as ICE trying to shame and bully law enforcement,” said King County Sheriff John Urquhart, whose department found itself called out in the first two reports. “I wasn’t happy with the list irrespective of whether it was right or wrong. And it turned out it was wrong.”

President Donald Trump mandated the reports as part of an executive order on increasing the nation’s safety. The first report issued March 20 claimed 206 detainers were declined nationwide including 12 by Snohomish County. That put it in the top 10 nationwide that week.

ICE officials insist when a law enforcement agency doesn’t honor the request, it puts the public safety at risk.

“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,” Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary said at the time. “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.”

Snohomish County has not honored the detainers since May 2014, when federal courts ruled keeping people behind bars indefinitely without a warrant is unconstitutional.

But the sheriff’s office does assist federal agents when they seek specific help on investigations and will honor any court-issued warrant where probable cause has been established for an inmate presented by ICE. A sheriff’s office spokeswoman said last month she was unaware of ICE agents ever presenting a warrant since the policy changed.

A spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union said agencies named in the reports should feel proud not shamed because their actions help protect their communities.

“It was an attempt to intimidate local law enforcement officials to stop practices that local law enforcement understood was best for public safety,” said ACLU spokesman Doug Honig.

Many law enforcement officials throughout Washington and around the country objected to assertions they are not cooperating with ICE when they decline detainers.

“This insinuates we are not upholding our sworn oath to keep communities safe. This is absurd and an insult to each county’s duly elected chief law enforcement officer,” according to a March 31 statement from the Washington State Sheriff’s Association. The group represents sheriffs in all 39 counties.

”Sheriffs need to uphold what is legal and what is right and not bend to political pressure or convenience. The public expects us to enforce the law while obeying the law. Sheriffs intend to do just that,” the statement concludes.

Gov. Jay Inslee would like the president to now pursue other approaches to dealing with immigration matters, a spokeswoman said.

“We hope that the administration turns its attention to the broader issues around immigration reform,” said spokeswoman Tara Lee. “Our law enforcement officers are doing their jobs, and Congress and the president need to do the same.”

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

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