The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office showed up in the first federal report calling out local law enforcement agencies that do not routinely honor requests to hold detainees for immigration officials.
The weekly reports, a new requirement under President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration enforcement, list immigrants released after federal immigration officials asked that they be held until Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) could take them into custody. The reports specifiy nationalities as well as charges or convictions, but not names.
The president has vowed to crack down on noncompliant local law enforcement agencies by pushing Congress to withhold their federal funding. About 50 city and county jails appear in the initial report.
Hennepin County, which requires a judge's order to hold inmates for ICE, did not honor two such requests during the week of Jan. 28, according to the inaugural report released Monday. They involved natives of Mexico, one convicted of methamphetamine possession and the other facing a weapons charge.
The sheriff's office issued a statement Monday that it cooperates with ICE "to the full extent of the law."
"The report is incorrect in some respects and we are working with [the Department of Homeland Security] to help them understand our operations," the statement said, but the office declined to specify what inaccuracies the report contained. "In every case we notify ICE in advance of an inmate's release if we have been contacted. We do not enforce immigration law, which is the role of the Federal Government."
The president and his supporters have sought to train a spotlight on high-profile crimes committed by immigrants released before ICE could take custody of them.
"When law enforcement agencies fail to honor immigration detainers and release serious criminal offenders, it undermines ICE's ability to protect the public safety," said acting ICE Director Thomas Homan in a statement.
Administration critics dismissed the report as a shaming stunt that skirts the legal constraints of holding inmates for immigration agents.
"If the federal government wants to lock someone up in order to try and deport them, then get a warrant from a federal judge," said Virgil Wiebe, an immigration law expert at the University of St. Thomas. "We frown on seizing people without probable cause, checked by a judge."
He noted that more than half of the unidentified immigrants listed in the report were not yet convicted of a crime. The Trump administration has made immigrants charged or suspected of crime priorities for deportation, in addition to those with convictions prioritized by the Obama administration.
During the week covered in the first report, ICE nationally issued more than 3,000 "detainers," or requests to hold inmates for immigration agents. Under the Obama administration, some ICE field offices had largely stopped sending such requests to jurisdictions with policies limiting cooperation. The new administration has instructed them to resume.
Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek announced in 2014 that his deputies would no longer honor detainers without a judge's order, pointing to the costs and to constitutional concerns. A series of judicial rulings dating back to that year has challenged the practice of honoring detainers.
The report cited that statement in including Hennepin on a separate list of "noncooperative jurisdictions." It acknowledged that list — based on public announcement, news reports and other accounts — might be incomplete.
Indeed, the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office, which has a similar policy, was not included. Spokesman Sgt. John Eastham said he doesn't know why the department was not on the list, but there are no current plans to scrap the policy.
Both Stanek and St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell signed a recent letter from the Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force to U.S. senators urging them to be "mindful of the current state of the law and the needs of local law enforcement" before making any move to cut federal funds.
Hennepin County's budget includes $198 million in federal funding, about 10 percent of the budget. Ramsey County's includes $89.6 million, or about 14 percent of the budget.
Mila Koumpilova • 612-673-4781