Cities, sheriffs find flaws in Trump’s immigration jail list
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Several city officials and sheriffs around the U.S. lashed out Tuesday at a White House report aiming to shame them over what the Trump administration sees as lax immigration policies, saying it includes wrong or misleading information about recent arrests of immigrants or their jail policies.
The pushback was not just from liberal local governments that are at odds with President Donald Trump over immigration crackdowns and his promise to deport “bad dudes” living in the United States illegally. In Texas, the elected Republican sheriff of conservative Williamson County said his jail didn’t refuse four recent immigration detainer requests as claimed.
The list was prompted by an executive order signed by Trump in January that called on the government to document which local jurisdictions aren’t cooperating with federal efforts to find and deport immigrants in the country illegally.
The first list was released Monday, citing 206 examples of immigrants who were said to have been released from custody by local jails despite requests from federal agents. The requests, often called “detainers,” have taken on a greater role in the immigration debate under Trump, who strenuously opposes local policies that grant leniency to people in the country illegally.
Many “sanctuary cities” choose to not honor the requests when immigrants complete their sentences and are released from jail.
City and county officials in Oregon, Rhode Island and Texas either disputed how the report characterized their handling of immigrant arrests, or challenged some of the cases. Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody called the report from U.S. immigration and Customs Enforcement “misleading.”
The list was published as some cities and counties are concerned about the administration pulling federal funding over so-called “sanctuary cities,” something the new president has vowed to do.
“They cast a very broad net in who they included in this list. We’re all still trying to figure out what is accomplished by this list, and also how it’s going to be used,” said Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza.
Rhode Island generally does not honor most ICE detainer requests, but Elorza said Providence appeared to have been included over a 2011 non-binding city resolution that he says wasn’t about detainers.
An ICE spokeswoman did not immediately comment on the disputed reports. The agency has already acknowledged some mistakes: Hours after the report was released Monday, ICE corrected 14 rejected detainers in Texas that were mistakenly listed from the Travis County State Jail. That facility is run by the state prison system and not Travis County, which is home to liberal Austin and had roughly two-thirds of the total number of cases on the list.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has blocked $1.5 million to Travis County after the newly elected Democratic sheriff announced after Trump’s inauguration that her jails would no longer honor all detainer requests. Abbott called the DHS report “deeply disturbing” and used it to rally his call for a statewide ban on so-called “sanctuary cities” in Texas.
The report wasn’t the only ICE concern for Texas officials. A federal magistrate judge said in open court this week that ICE officials told him a recent immigration sweep in Austin was set off by the change in Travis County’s immigrant detention policy. ICE has previously said the operations in Austin and other cities were business as usual.
In Oregon, Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett said the report doesn’t accurately describe the legal problems with complying. A 2014 federal court ruling in Oregon found that law enforcement could be held liable for keeping someone in jail for immigration agents without probable cause.
The sheriff in Riverside County, California, had similar concerns. Sheriff’s authorities there won’t turn over immigrants to ICE because of the federal court ruling, but they will provide information about immigrants’ scheduled release dates when a detainer is filed, said Assistant Sheriff Jerry Gutierrez.
The ICE report highlights a variety of crimes that included everything from traffic violations and drunken driving to rape and homicide. It does not list names, making it difficult to verify the facts surrounding the cases.
And the number cited in the report is somewhat murky. It doesn’t represent all the cases in which immigration authorities sought custody of people facing criminal charges, with major cities like New York and Los Angeles underrepresented on the list. It’s also unclear what period it covers.
Associated Press Writers Nomaan Merchant in Houston, Errin Haines Whack in Philadelphia and Amy Taxin in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
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