Washington County and the federal immigration enforcement agency are at odds again.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) singled out the county in a press release Tuesday for failing to detain Alejandro Maldonado-Hernandez, who ICE sought to deport for being in the United States illegally.
Maldonado-Hernandez was held for about a month in the Washington County Jail in Hillsboro in connection with a July 12 crash that resulted in a death on Southwest Farmington Road in Aloha. He faces multiple charges, among them second-degree felony manslaughter.
The Washington County Sheriff's Office responded in a release Wednesday that ICE is aware that Oregon jails cannot keep people based solely on administrative detainers issued by ICE agents. The restriction dates to 2014, when a U.S. magistrate judge ruled that Clackamas County violated a woman's constitutional rights when the county honored an ICE detainer in 2012 and delayed her release from jail, even though she had cleared up state criminal charges and the county had no legal basis to hold her. That ruling cost county taxpayers $100,000.
Maldonado-Hernandez posted bail on Aug. 8, four weeks after the crash and his arrest. He fled to Mexico with the help of three people, all of whom were arrested by sheriff's deputies on Aug. 28 on charges of hindering prosecution. Maldonado-Hernandez remains at large.
ICE agents presented an administrative detainer for Maldonado-Hernandez on July 16, the first business day after the fatal crash.
Nathalie Asher, ICE Seattle field office director for enforcement and removal operations, said this in a statement Tuesday:
"The decision to rebuff immigration detainers and not to hold dangerous individuals until ICE arrives to pick them up is a costly one. There is nothing that should prevent local law enforcement officials from making a simple phone call to notify ICE that a criminal alien is being released.
"The decision to continue to cite misguided sanctuary laws that allow dangerous criminals back on the streets, and many times the opportunity to flee prosecution, is irresponsible and jeopardizes public safety."
But in a statement authorized Wednesday by Sheriff Pat Garrett, the Washington County Sheriff's Office said if ICE agents had provided a warrant or an order signed by a judge, sheriff's deputies would have detained Maldonado-Hernandez. The statement said because no such warrant or order was filed, he was legally free after he posted 10% of his $250,000 bail.
"Delaying the release of any individual is a constitutional violation on our behalf," the sheriff's statement said.
"The continuing refusal of ICE agents to provide necessary legal justification for holding people they believe are a danger to our community is the real problem, not the Sheriff's Office insistence on following state law.
"Simply put, ICE detainers are not lawful or enforceable in the State of Oregon," and specified the 2014 decision by the magistrate judge in U.S. District Court, which applies throughout the state.
"This court concludes that ... the Jail was at liberty to refuse ICE's request to detain (Maria) Miranda-Olivares if that detention violated her constitutional rights," Judge Janice Stewart wrote. "Accordingly, the county (Clackamas) cannot avail itself of the defense that its practice and custom did not cause the allegedly unlawful detention."
This is not the first time the two agencies have clashed.
The Department of Homeland Security, the parent agency of ICE, spotlighted Washington County in a March 2017 report as among the nation's top local governments not cooperating with stepped-up federal efforts to detain and deport undocumented immigrants. The report was issued two months after Donald Trump became president.
Sheriff Garrett said then that Washington County and other Oregon governments are allowed to cooperate to some extent with federal immigration officials, despite a 1987 Oregon law that bars police agencies from using state or local resources to enforce federal immigration laws. Oregon voters rejected an attempt to repeal the law in 2018, and Gov. Kate Brown has extended that restriction by executive order to other state agencies.
Under another federal law, Washington County and others who operate jails furnish to ICE a daily list of foreign-born inmates set for release.
In an exchange of messages with Pamplin Media Group in March 2017, Garrett had this to say:
"On the date of release, any federal, state or local law enforcement officer or agent may take physical custody of a person that the Sheriff's Office no longer has an interest in holding outside of our Jail Release Lobby.
"Per Sheriff's Office policy, Jail staff will not hold an inmate who is otherwise eligible for release based on ICE detainers and will only detain an inmate beyond their release date and time if a warrant signed by a federal magistrate is provided."
The 1987 state law does allow police to check the immigration status of someone who is arrested for another crime and held in jail. It also allows police to honor federal warrants or court orders, which are signed by judges.
"Had ICE agents provided a valid warrant or order signed by a federal judge during that time, Mr. Maldonado-Hernandez would have remained in custody," the Washington County Sheriff's Office statement said Wednesday.
"Concerning the release of Mr. Maldonado-Hernandez, the Sheriff's Office followed policy and state law."
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