Washington state’s most populous county is closer to narrowing the types of crimes that would hold immigrants in county jail at the request of federal immigration authorities.
On a 5-4 vote, the King County Council passed a measure spearheaded by councilman Larry Gossett. The measure now heads to County Executive Dow Constantine, who has signaled his support .
Under the measure, the types of crimes that trigger a detainer would be narrowed to serious and violent offenses, such as assaults, rape, robbery, and repeated drunken driving. If a person is in jail for a misdemeanor, the county wouldn’t honor the detainer request.
Approval of the measure has been a goal for immigrant advocacy groups. The King County measure could be used as a template for a statewide bill in the 2014 Legislature.
“The evidence is clear that these ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) 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,” said Ann Benson, directing attorney of the Washington Defender Association’s Immigration Project.
For years, ICE has combed jail rosters and requested holds on people suspected of being in the country illegally. The agency has repeatedly said its deportation efforts focus on immigrants with criminal records.
“ICE has implemented clear priorities that focus on convicted criminals and other public safety threats, on those who repeatedly violate our immigration laws. The federal government alone sets these priorities and places detainers on individuals arrested on criminal charges to ensure that dangerous criminal aliens and other priority individuals are not released from prisons and jails into our communities,” said Andrew Munoz, ICE spokesman in Seattle.