EVERETT — The Snohomish County Jail has joined a growing number of lockups across the state and country that no longer are holding inmates for possible deportation at the request of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The shift in policy at the Everett jail came in May when the county’s civil prosecutors advised Sheriff Ty Trenary that he had no legal standing to incarcerate inmates based solely on detainers issued by immigration officials. The change might have contributed to a man charged with attempted murder evading arrest.
At the request of ICE agents, the jail used to hold inmates up to two days, sometimes longer, after the initial charge was resolved or a person was eligible to post bail. Jails notified the federal officers before they released those inmates. That gave immigration agents time to take custody of people whose legal status was in question, for possible deportation proceedings.
That changed in Snohomish County earlier this year.
“We were told that there’s not a sufficient legal basis to continue their detention,” sheriff’s spokeswoman Shari Ireton said.
That advice came after a federal court in Oregon ruled that Clackamas County violated an immigrant woman’s constitutional rights by holding her in jail for more than two weeks without probable cause. The immigration detainers typically aren’t accompanied by arrest warrants. The court ruled that the local jail could be liable for holding the woman based on the federal request.
Similar rulings have been handed down across the country, shifting how local jails are working with immigration officers.
Numerous counties across Washington have stopped honoring the detainers, according to the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, which has been tracking the issue. The nonprofit and the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington earlier this year sent letters to sheriffs and police chiefs across the state, urging them to change their jail policies.
The groups say the detainers result in illegal imprisonment of citizens and lawful permanent residents, particularly Latinos. They also say the policy often sweeps up people with minor offenses, despite immigration officials’ claims that they are focused on serious criminals.
ACLU spokesman Doug Honig pointed to a 2013 University of Washington study that looked at the King County Jail. The study concluded that the detainers added significant jail time for inmates and that one in eight of the people held were not convicted of a crime.
Immigration officials said they issued new guidelines to limit the use of the detainers to people with serious criminal history and not those arrested for minor offenses. ICE is the investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
“While some aliens may be arrested on minor criminal charges, they may have more serious criminal backgrounds.
In some cases, individuals with ICE detainers, who were released to the streets rather than being turned over to ICE and placed in removal proceedings, have subsequently committed more serious crimes,” wrote Andrew Munoz, a spokesman in the Seattle field office.
ICE officials say the detainers are a valuable tool to remove “dangerous criminal aliens convicted of crimes.”
Additionally, the inmates were turned over to immigration agents in a secure environment, Munoz said. Now, officers must take custody of people out in the community.
“It was a lot safer to make the transfer in the jails,” he said.
The change in policy caught at least one Snohomish County deputy prosecutor off guard. He was counting on the ICE detainer to hold a man accused of nearly killing his ex-girlfriend even if the defendant came up with bail money.
Yonathan Carreno-Duarte was arrested in October after he reportedly carved a three-inch gash in a woman’s throat. He has a daughter with the woman but the relationship soured not long after she gave birth. Carreno-Duarte reportedly instructed the woman not to put his name on the child’s birth certificate because he’s not in the U.S. legally.
When the defendant learned that the woman sought the state’s help in getting child support for the girl, he called the woman in a rage, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Paul Stern wrote court papers. Carreno-Duarte reportedly told the woman he was going back to Brazil.
He later called back, asking to meet with the woman. She agreed to see him in a public place and they settled on the parking lot outside an Everett grocery store.
Carreno-Duarte allegedly pulled out a large knife and attacked the woman. She was stabbed multiple times and received a cut to her neck so deep that the tendons were visible.
Their infant daughter was in a stroller next to them during the assault.
Carreno-Duarte surrendered to police the next day. He was charged with first-degree assault and bail was set at $200,000. Stern also was advised that ICE had requested to take custody of Carreno-Duarte when the criminal case was resolved.
Immigration officials began investigating Carreno-Duarte, 29, once he was booked into the county jail in October, Munoz said. They determined that he was here illegally but had been granted deferred action because he had come to the U.S. as a child and met certain criteria.
ICE informed jail staff that officers intended to take custody of Carreno-Duarte when he was released from their facility. They asked to be notified if he was released.
The jail changed its policy in early May, Ireton said. Inmates were not notified of the jail’s change in policy.
Carreno-Duarte was released on May 25 after the Yakima-based company 24/7 Bail Bonds, LLC posted a $200,000 bond with the clerk’s office.
Carreno-Duarte failed to show up for his court hearing in late July. That’s when Stern charged him with attempted first-degree murder. Superior Court Judge Michael Downes authorized a $3 million warrant for the man’s arrest.
The Snohomish County Violent Offender Task Force has been looking for Carreno-Duarte ever since.
There was no guarantee that ICE would have picked up Carreno-Duarte if the jail had notified the agency that he posted bail. Munoz said the agency doesn’t pick up all detainees. It depends on their criminal history and whether they’ve been convicted of a felony or serious misdemeanors.
Honig said he doesn’t believe the case is reflective of the majority of people who were being held for immigration officials.
“This sounds like an issue about appropriate bail, not about ICE detainers,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.