Shawnee County commissioners Thursday will consider a resolution declaring that the county isn’t a “sanctuary county.”
Officials have sought to clarify the county’s policy on undocumented immigrants since the jail stopped holding those with questionable legal status without a warrant. The issue surfaced again earlier this year after President Donald Trump issued an executive order declaring so-called sanctuary jurisdictions wouldn’t be eligible for federal grants. The resolution in front of commissioners Thursday declares the county has been in compliance with a federal statute Trump cited in his order, Shawnee County counselor Jim Crowl said.
Even before Trump’s administration, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement changed it’s policy for requesting jails hold undocumented immigrants, which the county has followed, Crowl said.
“No matter how many times we talk to (the media) or the public about it, this issue keeps returning,” he said. “This is an opportunity of the commission to make an official statement we can provide anytime someone requests it.”
Confusion about Shawnee County’s policy on holding undocumented immigrants first popped up in 2014.
At the time, the county jail stopped honoring U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers without probable cause, a warrant or a court order. The decision came after a Pennsylvania ruling, Galarza v. Szalczyk, said local agencies could be held liable if they hold someone based on an ICE detainer and that person sues. The detainer form was a simple request an agency hold an individual until ICE agents take custody, often for an indefinite amount of time.
The county’s policy was inline with the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Crowl has said, but regardless ICE had used affidavits instead of detainers since last fall.
“Now the form we get isn’t just a request ‘please hold this person.’ It’s an actual sworn affidavit signed by a federal agent,” he said “They acknowledged the old form used was a problem, not just for us, but for everyone.”
Shawnee County has honored those affidavits since ICE first started using them last year, Crowl said, but has been labeled a sanctuary jurisdiction by conservative groups. The Center for Immigration Studies, a conservative nonprofit research organization based in Washington, D.C., in March listed Shawnee County as a sanctuary county based on the policy of not holding individuals without a court order.
The definition of what makes a city or county a sanctuary jurisdiction has been unclear. No specific legal definition exists, he said. Trump’s Jan. 25 executive order cited statute 8 U.S.C. 1373 which requires federal, state and local law enforcement communicate with ICE, but doesn’t specifically require them to comply with ICE orders.
“We’ve always communicated freely with ICE,” Crowl said.
At no point has Shawnee County appeared on official ICE lists of municipalities not in compliance with federal law, so the county hasn’t been in danger of losing federal grants, Crowl said.
The resolution is on the agenda when Commissioners Bob Archer, Kevin Cook and Shelly Buhler meet at 9 a.m. Thursday in their chambers in Room B-11 of the County Courthouse, 200 S.E. 7th. Commissioners will also:
— Hear a presentation on a study of how the county uses office space.
— Consider leasing six 2018 Pursuit Rated Chevy Tahoes for the Sheriff’s Office at a total cost of about $251,500.
— Acknowledge Greg Abbott’s resignation from the Silver Lake Township
Contact reporter Luke Ranker at (785) 295-1270 or @lrankerNEWS on Twitter. Like him on Facebook at facebook.com/lukeranker.