A hard-line immigration group this week sued the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, seeking detailed information on hold requests, which ask local jails across the country to hold illegal immigrants charged with crimes until they are picked up by federal officials for deportation.
The lawsuit, filed by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), is surprising, given that President Donald Trump took office promising to confront “sanctuary” jurisdictions and make a major issue of their refusal to honor such requests, which are also known as detainers.
But officials at FAIR’s legal arm, the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), said the litigation appears to be the only way to get the information that the group seeks.
“They haven’t responded to our FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] request,” said John Rooney, director of investigations at IRLI.
The civil complaint notes that the group first asked for the information under FOIA in January. The organization has asked for:
- All records on detainers placed on illegal immigrants arrested on criminal charges in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories. Specifically, the suit requests information on detainers that local jurisdictions did not honor.
- All records related to illegal immigrants released by local law enforcement agencies — despite detainer requests — who then went on to commit new offenses.
Dale Wilcox, executive director of IRLI, argued that people need to understand the consequences of sanctuary policies, which allow “dangerous criminals” back onto the street.
“The American people have been kept in the dark when it comes to data on how many ICE detainers are being ignored by local law enforcement,” he said in a statement.
Trump came into office promising more transparency when it comes to sanctuary cities. As part of a comprehensive executive order redirecting immigration policy, he instructed ICE to produce a weekly report highlighting jurisdictions with the highest volume of the declined detainers.
But the agency abandoned the reports in April 2017, promising to resume the practice after a pause to allow ICE to “analyze and refine its reporting methodologies.”
However, Rooney noted, “that’s never happened. Maybe because some of the jurisdictions pushed back and didn’t want to be embarrassed.”
A spokeswoman for ICE told LifeZette on Tuesday that she had no update on the program.
The spokeswoman directed LifeZette to general statistics showing that ICE is both issuing more detainers and having more refused since Trump became president.
For the fiscal year that ended September 30, ICE issued 142,356 detainers, up from 86,026 the prior year. For the period between Jan. 20, 2017, and September 30 — covering Trump’s tenure — the number was 112,493. The compares with 62,192 detainers issued during the comparable period under Barack Obama.
Local agencies released 8,170 people with detainers in fiscal year 2017. ICE was able to arrest only 460, or 5.6 percent of them.
Rooney said he hopes to draw a more complete picture of the threat to public safety by delving beyond those statistics. Americans should have a better indication of how many additional crimes result from the release of illegal immigrants.
“I believe that the data is there,” he said. “I think they just haven’t responded to it … Nobody knows what’s going on. I thought this request would expose that.”
(photo credit, homepage and article images: ICE)