ICE says 463 jails won’t cooperate with the federal government’s deportation detainer requests and is blaming their jurisdictions for the agency’s inability to comply with a court order demanding transparency of Biden administration targets for removal.
In addition to the sanctuary jails, 156 others give only “limited cooperation” to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Marc A. Rapp, an assistant director for law enforcement systems and analysis, recently told a federal judge in Texas.
The numbers signal a major increase in sanctuaries over the past four years. Communities rushed to declare themselves sanctuaries as part of a resistance to President Trump’s immigration policies. In early 2017, ICE counted about 120 jurisdictions that refused cooperation.
The number of sanctuaries was revealed as part of a lawsuit against the Biden administration‘s efforts to reshape arrests and limit deportations of illegal immigrants.
The lawsuit, brought by Texas and Louisiana, argues that the policy has led to ICE cancellations of some detainer requests and has forced local prisons and jails to release illegal immigrant criminals who would otherwise have been deported.
Judge Drew Tipton has issued a preliminary injunction siding with the states, though his ruling has been stayed while an appeals court considers the matter.
In his court filing, Mr. Rapp did not reveal a list of jurisdictions that are considered uncooperative. The Washington Times asked ICE to provide the list, but the agency did not, nor did it provide data about how the number of sanctuaries has changed.
Sanctuaries are not legally defined, but the word is generally applied to entities that restrict cooperation with the Homeland Security Department.
The most severe sanctuaries bar immigration officers from non-public parts of facilities such as holding areas and refuse to communicate to ICE when illegal immigrants are scheduled to be released.
Less-severe sanctuaries communicate and cooperate on turning targets over to ICE upon release but decline to honor ICE’s request to hold them for up to 48 hours before deportation officers can pick them up.
Mr. Rapp revealed in his filing that ICE has 96,689 active detainers on potential deportees that have been lodged since 2018. Detainers signify ICE requests for prisons and jails to turn over inmates for deportation rather than releasing them once they have served their time.
Mr. Rapp says detainers are “merely requests” and localities are free to refuse them. More jurisdictions are doing so.
“Many state and local law enforcement agencies decline to notify ICE of an upcoming release, even when a detainer has been lodged,” Mr. Rapp said in his sworn declaration.
He offered the numbers as a way of explaining why ICE cannot comply with Judge Tipton’s request for data on targets whom ICE doesn’t pick up.
“Absent clarification or modification of the court’s reporting requirements, I believe it is unlikely that ICE would be able to provide full and accurate reporting consistent with those requirements,” Mr. Rapp said.
Jon Feere, who served as chief of staff at ICE during the Trump administration, said the agency is being obtuse and that its protests seem to miss the point of what the judge is seeking.
He said the agency should be able to report how many people it has encountered in local prisons and jails who are deportable but whom ICE has actively declined to take into custody.
“The Biden administration is effectively running its own nationwide sanctuary policy and choosing to ignore the help of cooperative local law enforcement,” said Mr. Feere, who is now director of investigations at the Center for Immigration Studies.
Senators have revealed cases in which ICE officers wanted to collect sex offenders but were blocked by superiors.
Mr. Feere said one sheriff’s office told him it is struggling to get ICE to even put detainers on targets, forcing it to release methamphetamine dealers and domestic assault perpetrators back into the community.
Mr. Feere said local police and sheriff’s departments that are part of the 287(g) program flag people for ICE every day. He said that is the kind of data the judge needs “to get a sense of how much the Biden administration has gutted the nation’s immigration enforcement system.”
Analysts on both sides of the immigration debate say the numbers soared during the Trump administration as local politicians resisted what they said was overzealous federal enforcement of immigration laws.
Most targets for arrest had records of convictions or at least arrests, but resisting officials said the cases often involved lower-level crimes that they felt shouldn’t result in deportations.
Under the Trump administration, ICE attempted, at the president’s orders, to release a public name-and-shame list of sanctuaries, but the effort was plagued with data problems and was quickly scratched.
The documents ICE released early in the process showed about 120 sanctuaries in 2017.