After issuing only three weekly declined detainer reports, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will temporarily cease publishing them. Initiated by President Trump’s January executive order on interior enforcement, ICE had begun to release weekly lists of jurisdictions that declined immigration detainers. These lists—proposed as a means to track which law enforcement agencies had refused ICE’s request to detain immigrants for up to 48 business hours beyond their scheduled release—were in fact a thinly-veiled attempt by the administration to publicly shame jurisdictions into increased cooperation with federal immigration enforcement.
Federal courts have found that detainers are not mandatory and that accepting them without judicial warrants is unconstitutional. Despite this fact, ICE moved forward with its plans to publicly list jurisdictions that do not comply.
Not surprisingly, ICE’s declined detainer reports got many details wrong and, as a result, localities across the country complained. The New York City Mayor’s office; Nassau County, New York; Franklin County, Pennsylvania; and others said that the ICE report incorrectly listed them as uncooperative and demanded apologies.
ICE confirmed that its data was problematic. In fact, the report notes that “law enforcement agencies (LEA) do not generally advise ICE of when a detainer is not honored, and therefore this report represents declined detainers that ICE personnel have become aware of during their enforcement activities.”
Furthermore, the most recent list includes jurisdictions that declined detainers from February 11 to 17, 2017 and includes the following correction:
Due to a data processing error, the Jan. 28 – Feb 03, 2017 Declined Detainer Outcome Report incorrectly attributed issued detainers to Franklin county, Iowa; Franklin County, New York; Franklin County, Pennsylvania; and Montgomery County, Iowa that were in fact issued to agencies outside of the respective county’s jurisdiction in similarly named locations. Additionally, detainers that appeared as being declined by Williamson County, TX and Bastrop County, TX were cases where the individual was transferred to another facility where they were released. Finally, detainers appeared as being declined by Chester County, PA and Richmond County, NC when those detainers were incorrectly issued to those locations. The subjects of those detainers were in different locations.
York, Pennsylvania ICE Director Stephen Ritchey wrote to Franklin County, Pennsylvania after erroneously listing it as one of the top 10 noncompliant jurisdictions. “On a personal note, I would like to apologize for the unwarranted attention this issue has placed on you and your staff,” wrote Ritchey.
A discrepancy such as this illustrates another problem with ICE’s top-down approach—the federal government has repeatedly underestimated the response from local elected officials and law enforcement officers who strongly believe that the localities themselves best know how to keep their communities safe. Publishing these detainer lists is nothing more than a witch hunt and does nothing to improve intergovernmental relationships or keep America safe.