In King County Jails, I.C.E. Holds Lead To Longer Lockups

Mar 27, 2013

If you’re booked into a King County jail, you’ll stay an extra month, on average, if immigration officials want to review your file. That’s even if you haven’t been charged with a crime. This is one of the findings in a new report today from the University of Washington.

The report comes as King County officials are considering changes to their partnership with federal immigration authorities. Last month, County Executive Dow Constantine sent a letter to council members, outlining possible changes.

Currently, Immigration and Customs Enforcement can place a hold on people booked into jail who may be in the U.S. illegally. King County honors all those requests. But Constantine and some council members propose more limitations on who can be held.

A handful of counties in other states have taken similar steps, in response to the recent rollout of I.C.E.’s “Secure Communities” program. It allows I.C.E. to directly access jail fingerprints and place a hold.

The UW study analyzed King County jail data from 2011. It found about one out of every eight people with I.C.E. holds were not charged with any crime. And that about half the inmates with holds were charged with low-level crimes, like driving without a license.

Immigrant advocates point out the program conflicts with I.C.E.’s policy to focus on serious criminals. They also say immigrants have become more fearful of police because of this increased partnership between I.C.E. and local authorities.

The UW study shows King County could save nearly $2 million a year if it stopped honoring the I.C.E. holds.

But it left out part of the equation. An I.C.E. spokesperson notes the feds will reimburse local jails for the cost of a hold beyond four days. In 2011, King County received more than a million dollars in reimbursements.

Copyright 2013 KUOW