Shawnee County is not a ‘sanctuary jurisdiction,’ commissioners say with resolution

Shawnee County commissioners vote unanimously Thursday to approve a resolution declaring the county isn’t a sanctuary county. (Luke Ranker/The Capital-Journal)

Shawnee County is not a sanctuary jurisdiction, according to a resolution the commission approved unanimously Thursday.

 

The resolution stipulates county employees must comply with a federal statute requiring local, state and federal agencies to communicate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Officials hope the resolution will end long-running confusion about the county’s policy for holding undocumented immigrants.

“It would be nice to finally put this to rest,” Commissioner Kevin Cook said. “We’ve had this brought up every three months for about two years.”

Until President Donald Trump issued an executive order allowing federal agencies to strip grant funding from municipalities found to be so-called sanctuary jurisdictions, local governments had no firm definition of what such a jurisdiction was, said county counselor Jim Crowl. The definition provided in the executive order cited statute 8 U.S.C. 1373 which requires federal, state and local law enforcement communicate with ICE. That statute doesn’t compel municipalities to comply or corporate with ICE orders, he said.

Crowl said the county has always complied with 8 U.S.C. 1373 and communicated directly with ICE about those with questionable legal status in the county jail. The resolution passed Thursday doesn’t change county or jail policy.

“(The resolution) gives us something that’s clear policy to show anyone who asks,” Crowl said.

Crowl noted that the sanctuary issue was also catalyzed when then-candidate Trump brought the case of Kate Steinle into the public conversation. Steinle was fatally shot by an undocumented immigrant, who had been deported five times. The incident occurred in San Francisco, a sanctuary city. On Thursday, a California jury found the man not guilty.

Despite no firm definition of a sanctuary city or county, Shawnee County has been labeled as such, including a March listing on the Center for Immigration Studies, a conservative nonprofit research organization. The county has never been placed an official federal list of sanctuary counties.

To avoid constitutional issues, Shawnee County Jail won’t hold undocumented immigrants unless ICE, or another agency, produce a warrant or other court order. The jail moved to that policy in 2014 after a Pennsylvania ruling said local agencies could be held liable if they hold someone based on an ICE detainer and that person sues. In the Pennsylvania case, Galarza v. Szalczyk, authorities held a man with a detainer and later found he was a U.S. citizen.

That policy doesn’t violate 8 U.S.C. 1373 as long as the county communicate with ICE, Crowl said, but regardless, since the fall of 2016, ICE sends sworn affidavits to hold undocumented immigrants, which that county honors.

“Both before and after the executive order our employees have been in compliance,” he said.

The commission passed the resolution with limited discussion.

Commission chairman Bob Archer asked what impact an ordinance declaring Topeka as a sanctuary city would have on the county jail.

“Only you can pass ordinances on how the jail conducts business,” Crowl said.

Contact reporter Luke Ranker at (785) 295-1270 or @lrankerNEWS on Twitter. Like him on Facebook at facebook.com/lukeranker.

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