King County Detainer Reform: We Win!

On December 2, 2013, the King County Council passed an ordinance  that would establish clear guidelines for local law enforcement's involvement in federal immigration enforcement and make our communities safer. The ordinance (2013-0285), co-sponsored by Councilmembers Larry Gossett, Joe McDermott, and Larry Phillips, passed by a vote of 5-4 after nearly three years of research, advocacy, and legislative process and represents one of the strongest such bills in the country. Advocates joined King County Executive Dow Constantine on December 13 as he signed the bill (pictured above). 

"OneAmerica applauds the bipartisan majority of the King County Council, especially our champion Councilmember Gossett, for passing one of the strongest bills in the country protecting local communities and immigrant families from devastating ICE hold requests." said Rich Stolz, Executive Director, OneAmerica, "Once again, Martin Luther King Jr. County is a national leader in creating a policy which allows all residents, regardless of immigration status, to feel comfortable reporting a crime or seeking protection from the police. We also celebrate key allies and supporters who worked together and kept the faith during an arduous, nearly three-year effort. We’re already looking to other jurisdictions across Washington State that could pass similar, sensible policies that improve public safety and keep families together."

"Thanks to the leadership of Councilmember Gossett and his co-sponsors, as well as the support of Sheriff Urquhart and the many community organizations that participated in this effort, King County has now joined the growing chorus of state and local jurisdictions that are using their own authority to rein in the unnecessary and harsh impacts of the federal government’s misguided enforcement policies and practices." said Ann Benson, OneAmerica board member and Directing Attorney, WA Defender Association's Immigration Project, "The evidence is clear that these ICE practices with regard to immigration detainer requests undermine public safety, do little to fix our broken immigration system, and devastate our families and communities. This ordinance sends a clear message that King County will no longer collude in funneling its residents into an unjust deportation system."

What is King County Detainer Reform? Keep reading:

King County Detainer Reform would limit the harmful impacts of "ICE holds" that prolong detention and funnel people into deportation, undermining community trust and safety.

There's been a terrible misunderstanding.

Perhaps it's a case of mistaken identity. Maybe you've been profiled. Or it could be you've really, truly messed up. Whatever the case, you've been arrested, and you're hoping that this situation will be cleared up as soon as possible so you can get on with your life. Relief: the local police won't press charges. You think the nightmare is over.

Not so fast. When you were arrested, your fingerprints were sent to a massive federal government database run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The computer says there was a match. An ICE agent calls the local police and asks them to keep you in jail. If you're a Legal Permanent Resident or a U.S. Citizen, this could mean you stay in jail longer - as long as a month - while your case is sorted out. If you're undocumented or your status is uncertain, you could be turned over directly to ICE, detained, and put in deportation proceedings - all without having been charged with a crime.

This is what happens in King County and across the state due to the unnecessary entanglement of local law enforcement and federal immigration policy. When people who have committed no crime or who have been charged with minor infractions are caught up in the ICE dragnet, we all pay. When local jurisdictions submit to ICE's requests to detain people longer, taxpayers foot the bill. When our neighbors and family members are deported, the human costs are incalculable. When people are afraid to call for help during emergencies, we're all left more insecure.

Meet Juan: Nearly deported after calling 911

OneAmerica is working with other organizations working closely with immigrant populations to call on King County to take steps to reconsider its participation and collaboration in immigration enforcement practices that are undermining community trust, unnecessarily consuming scarce resources, and making all residents of the County less safe. These groups include the ACLU of Washington, Casa LatinaNorthwest Defenders Association, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Sound Alliance, University Unitarian Church, and Washington Defender Association .

What is Detainer Reform?

The King County Detainer Ordinance (2013-0285), introduced by King County Councilmembers Larry Gossett and Joe McDermott, will address the harmful impact of the federal government’s controversial "Secure Communities" (S‐Comm) and related programs by providing local law enforcement with clear guidelines for compliance with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) requests to detain individuals for civil immigration enforcement purposes.

Instead of processing all "ICE holds," even for individuals with no charges or minor infractions, King County would only submit to ICE's voluntary detainer requests if an individual has a serious or violent felony conviction. The King County Detainer Ordinance will build on previous local initiatives to foster an environment of inclusiveness and trust by drawing a clear line between federal immigration enforcement and local law enforcement and County employees.

The ordinance will increase civil liberties protections for all King County residents, improving public safety and community policing efforts that are jeopardized when local law enforcement gets entangled with federal immigration policy.

The King County Detainer Ordinance also makes fiscal sense: a University of Washington report recently found that ICE holds cost King County $3 million in 2011, and that limiting them could save the county $1.8 million.

The same UW report also found that ICE detainer requests mainly target people without serious criminal charges or histories: half of people held had misdemeanor charges, and almost one in eight had no charges. Four out of five had no prior criminal history.

ICE holds also disproportionately impact Latino communities: more than one in four of the people who entered jail and were identified as Hispanic were transferred to ICE upon their release. Other research has found that increased collaboration between local police and federal immigration agencies drastically diminishes Latino communities' trust in authorities, such as their willingness to call the police in an emergency.

What is "Secure Communities" (S-Comm)?

S‐Comm is an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) program that enlists local law enforcement to engage in civil immigration enforcement by sharing fingerprints at the point of arrest. The program automatically leads to investigation of the immigration background of every individual, citizen or non‐citizen, at the point of arrest by electronically crosschecking fingerprints through an immigration database. If there is a match in the flawed database, ICE then sends a detainer request (or "ICE hold"), asking localities to detain an individual for extra time, at local expense, so they can be picked up for deportation.

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