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Kansas sheriffs stop honoring ICE holds

This year, the status of ICE detainers has changed dramatically. In March, Daniel Ragsdale, acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), admitted in a letter to congresspeople that ICE detainers are not mandatory for local police departments to enforce. Then, later that month, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that ICE detainers are not mandatory for states or local enforcement agencies. Finally, in April, a federal court ruled that the Clackamas County Sheriff violated the U.S. Constitution by detaining an Oregon women because of an ICE hold and not an arrest warrant. 

An ICE detainer is a request from ICE to other enforcement agencies–usually local police departments or Sheriffs–asking those agencies to detain persons in jail so that ICE can run their fingerprints through immigration databases. This means that individuals arrested by local enforcement agencies–no matter the reason for the arrest–could be held for up to 48 hours longer than they normally would, even if they post bail.

The result is that petty or non-offenders often get held in jail for several days. Further, ICE has not made a habit of seeking legal advice or an arrest warrant before detaining individuals.

Immediately after its ruling, the decision in Clackamas held state-wide repercussions, as the majority of Oregon counties elected to stop honoring ICE holds. The federal case had a similar influence on Washington and Colorado, where local enforcement agencies decided publicly to stop their detainer policies. 

Now, Kansas sheriffs have decided to eschew ICE as well. In Shawnee, Johnson, and Finney counties, after a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) notified them of the risks associated with ICE holds–namely, a lawsuit–the sheriffs released public statements noting that their counties will no longer honor ICE holds.

“[W]e have ceased recognizing any ‘probable cause’ authority in the [detainer] form. It is our desire never to hold a person beyond the period for which proper lawful authority exists,” said Brian W. Cole, the director of Shawnee County Department of Corrections. 

Kansas’ decision to forgo ICE holds marks an important moment in the fight for a safer, more judicious deportation system. Historically, Kansas has not been tolerant of immigrants. In fact, its current secretary of state, Kris Kobach, has pushed policies for consistent harassment of undocumented citizens.

But the Clackamas County ruling encouraged sheriffs to change their act. “We could be liable for holding someone against their will, is what it comes down to,” said Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter. 

When local enforcement agencies collaborate with ICE, they lose the trust of their community. By choosing to stop honoring ICE holds, Kansas sheriffs are taking steps towards safer–and warmer–neighborhoods. 

For more information, click here.

Other states that have taken steps against police-ICE collaboration include New York, Nevada, Nebraska, Florida, Minnesota, New Jersey, Rhode Island, California, and Pennsylvania.