STUDY: King County’s Cooperation with ICE Detainer Requests Unfair for Latinos

Highlighted by a press release from the ACLU of Washington, a new study conducted by the University of Washington has concluded that the practice of King County blindly cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention requests has had a disproportionate impact on Latinos, and also cost King County and local municipalities nearly $2 million dollars in 2011.

According to the ACLU of Washington, the report - Immigration Detainer Requests in King County: Costs and Consequences, which was commissioned by the Northwest Defenders Association and written by Katherine Beckett, Ph.D. and co-author Ph.D. candidate Heather Evans - “confirms the concerns of many immigrants and advocates in King County.” The ACLU goes on to say that the study shows that the “routine practice of holding individuals in response to an ICE request prolongs detention and funnels individuals indiscriminately into ICE custody.”

“The report confirms that these detainers cause individuals to be detained unfairly and do not protect public safety,” says ACLU of Washington Legislative Director Shankar Narayan “It undermines the community trust in police which is vital for law enforcement to be effective in protecting public safety. Further, it consumes resources that could be much better spent on true public safety needs.”

Specifically, the ACLU is urging King County to adopt a new mandate that would limit the circumstances in which a detainer request from ICE was approved, to include only incidents when a person has a serious or violent felony conviction. Otherwise, according to the ACLU, people will continue to be routinely (and unfairly) detained, with ICE’s only motivation being a desire to investigate these people for possible deportation proceedings - a system that undermines community trust and leads immigrants and refugees to fear any contact with law enforcement, regardless of the circumstance.

According to the study, nearly two-thirds of people that ICE sought detainers for were not charged with a felony when booked into jail, roughly one in eight were never charged with a crime before being handed over to ICE’s custody.

From the ACLU press release:

Namely, the report highlights that the current King County practice of submitting to all ICE detainer requests:

*extends the time in jail for individuals subject to them by an average of nearly 30 days,

*disproportionately impacts Latinos -more than one-fourth of Hispanics booked into King County jail were transferred to ICE upon release, and

*costs King County and local municipalities nearly $2 million dollars in 2011 alone.

You can read the full report here.

In February 2012 King County Executive Dow Constantine sent a letter to the council asking them to address the issues raised in the report. “We applaud the leadership taken by King County Executive Dow Constantine, County Council Chair Larry Gossett, and King County Sheriff John Urquhart in leading efforts to address our grave concerns with immigration enforcement practices in King County,” says Eileen Farley, Executive Director of the Northwest Defenders Association, in the ACLU press release.

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