Altena: Policy Doesn’t Make County A “Sanctuary”

Orange City, Iowa — It’s the juxtaposition of a federal law and a federal agency’s contrary request. That’s what a debate about immigration amounts to, according to Sioux County Sheriff Dan Altena.
Sioux Co Jail
The term “sanctuary cities” has been in the news a lot recently after the murder of a woman in San Francisco, California by someone who was in the country illegally, and especially since the presidential race is heating up.

San Francisco is what many people call a “sanctuary city”. However, the term “sanctuary city” is defined differently by different people. Some define it as when a city council or governing board passes actual ordinances banning police from asking questions about citizens’ residency status, or when police departments have the equivalent of a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” when it comes to immigration status.

However, the Center for Immigration Studies, in a new report, uses a much broader brush, also including cities and counties whose jails will not hold anyone for Immigration and Customs Enforcement — or “ICE” — who is not either a.)charged with a crime and waiting to see the magistrate or b.) serving a sentence.

Sioux County Sheriff Dan Altena says that would include most, if not all the county jails in Iowa.

Altena says while he can certainly understand why ICE would want the jail to hold someone like that, he says legally, their hands are tied. If they were to hold someone without a charge, they could put the county at risk.

In speaking with Altena, he says he has no moral issue with holding someone in jail for ICE, but jailers and the Sheriff’s Office need to obey the law as it currently stands. He says if the law were to be changed, it would be a different story. In fact, he says the current situation leaves the Sheriff’s Office in a bad spot, and he wishes the issue would be cleared up by Congress.

The new report even says, “One way to address this problem is for state governments to pass legislation or issue legal opinions clarifying that law enforcement agencies are authorized and expected to comply with all ICE detainers or make other arrangements with ICE for the transfer of inmates on the path to deportation.”

The Center For Immigration Studies’ new report says that some 276 cities or counties — nearly 50 percent more than previously thought — released over 8000 people who were in the country illegally and had criminal records or were facing charges, despite ICE requests to hold them for 48 hours to give ICE enough time to arrive and pick them up.

The report’s author, Jessica Vaughan says that those 8000 are part of an even larger release of 17,000 undocumented immigrants with criminal records. She says many of them have been rearrested after release and were charged with 7,500 new charges.

The report is called “Ignoring Detainers, Endangering Communities — State/local agencies release criminals rather than obey law.”

Click here for the report.

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