The Department of Homeland Security on Monday released its first report publicly calling out counties that refused to honor federal requests to detain people on suspicion of violating immigration law.
The DHS’ Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency issued 3,083 such requests from January 28 to February 3 and found 206 instances in which immigrants were released from custody instead of detained and turned over to federal agents.
Monday’s DHS report follows an executive order President Donald Trump signed in January that in part called for a “comprehensive list” of localities that refused to honor federal detainers, or requests to hold a suspect.
“When law-enforcement agencies fail to honor immigration detainers and release serious criminal offenders, it undermines ICE’s ability to protect the public safety and carry out its mission,” ICE’s acting director, Thomas Homan, said in a statement Monday.
Federal judges have ruled in the past that localities aren’t obliged to honor the detainer requests, as they are not warrants signed by judges and not legally binding. Courts have even ruled that detaining people beyond their scheduled release dates can violate detainees’ Fourth Amendment rights if there is no legal justification for their continued detention.
“This is a shaming list, a scarlet letter that the federal government is going to put on jurisdictions around the country,” Dennis Herrera, San Francisco’s city attorney, told The New York Times last month after the Trump administration first announced its plans to release a list of noncompliant jurisdictions.
The 206 cases ICE identified in its list, however, include some detainer requests made as early as 2014 and don’t represent every detainer request issued, according to the Associated Press.
It also included at least one county that did honor the detainers – the Nassau County sheriff’s office in New York was quick to point out that it had been wrongly named in the list.
“We have tried to be cooperative and it’s unfair and misleading to suggest that we’re not – especially in these times,” Capt. Michael Golio told The New York Times, adding that ICE told him it would remove the county from its next report.
Of the 206 instances documented in the DHS report, 142 occurred in Travis County, Texas. The county’s sheriff recently enacted a policy of refusing all federal detainers unless the requests are accompanied by a warrant or the suspects are charged with murder, aggravated sexual assault, or human smuggling.
Travis County officials told the news media on Monday that that the county’s outsize representation in the DHS list was due to timing and that subsequent reports would show fewer instances.
“The week they chose happens to fall at the time we implemented our new policy,” Maj. Wes Priddy told The Huffington Post. He said that of the 38 people released on bond with felonies on their records, 37 had attended scheduled court hearings.
“That’s every bit as good as the record of US citizens that have to go to a court date,” Priddy said. “These people are showing up.”
Travis County’s policy has provoked the ire of Texas’ Republican governor, Greg Abbott, who blocked $1.5 million in state grant funding and called for Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez to be removed from office.
“The Travis County Sheriff’s decision to deny ICE detainer requests and release back into our communities criminals charged with heinous crimes – including sexual offenses against children, domestic violence, and kidnapping – is dangerous and should be criminal in itself,” Abbot said Monday in a statement.