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King County, Wash. latest local jurisdiction to push back against ICE

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In what appears to be a growing trend nationwide, King County, Wash. is the latest local government to consider no longer complying with routine Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests, as reported by the Seattle Times.

An ordinance under consideration by the King County Council would ostensibly change the way county jailers now handle hold requests for immigrant inmates who are deportable. If passed by the committee, the county would honor ICE detainer requests for immigrants convicted of serious or violent crimes as defined under state law, while disregarding those for immigrants who have committed lesser offenses, such as indecent exposure or criminal trespassing.

King County's ordinance would require ICE agents to show in writing that the person was previously convicted of a homicide or a violent, serious or sex offense at any time in the past 10 years, the article says. Moreover, the county would not honor detainers for juveniles.

King County, which includes Seattle, joins the likes of New York City, Cook County, Ill., and Santa Clara County, Calif. in pushing back against federal attempts to have local police act as federal immigration enforcers under the Secure Communities initiative. In March, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg approved two bills limiting the city's cooperation with ICE detainee orders.

Critics of Secure Communities, the ICE information sharing program that permits it to search for undocumented immigrants arrested by state and local authorities by matching fingerprints sent to the FBI against immigration databases, charge that the process is inherently flawed.

Nathalie Asher, field office director of ICE's enforcement and removal operations for the Seattle region, told King County Council members last week that a proposed ordinance requiring county jailers to stop fully cooperating with her office could pose a public danger. For the foreign-born population, "We have the bigger story on that person...that you may not have," including any criminal prosecution for violations of federal immigration law, Asher testified. "That is really the role that Congress has put on ICE--to vet and make those determinations."

A March 2013 University of Washington study found that Seattle-area jail inmates who are subject to detainer requests from immigration authorities remain in jail for about a month longer on average than other inmates--even though the requests only call for detention for up to 48 hours. Extra days in jail associated with detainer requests from ICE cost King County and its municipalities nearly $3 million in 2011, the study (.pdf) estimates.

According to the Seattle Times article, data from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at the State University of New York at Syracuse for a 2-month period in 2012 showed that 50 percent of the time, the end result is deportation for detainees from the Seattle region.

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