Washington County Sheriff Garrett explains decision to comply with federal immigration subpoenas
Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett says the threat of federal legal action was a basis for his decision last week to furnish information to federal immigration authorities about two inmates being held in the Washington County Jail.
Garrett offered his first public explanation Thursday, Feb. 27, during a Westside Economic Alliance breakfast forum on public safety at Embassy Suites in Tigard.
The Sheriff's Office said in a statement Feb. 18 that, after a review by county lawyers, it would comply with the subpoenas issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). But Garrett himself made no public statement until now.
"I decided to comply with those subpoenas for a couple of reasons," he said. "One, that's what we do. We get served subpoenas for records all the time. We comply with subpoenas. Rarely are they federal.
"The second reason is that the U.S. attorney for Oregon made it very clear that those agencies that did not comply would be taken to court and risk a potential court charge in a federal courtroom."
U.S. Attorney Billy Williams met with about half of Oregon's 36 sheriffs — Garrett did not specify whether he was among them, although he is a former president of the sheriffs' association — and federal law enforcement officials Feb. 11 in Salem. Acting ICE Director Matthew Albence also was at the meeting.
The ICE subpoenas came a week later, after the agency took similar actions in January in Colorado and New York.
The ICE subpoenas sought information, such as last-known addresses and identifying documents, about two Mexican nationals the agency seeks to deport. One was convicted of sex abuse years ago. The other was arrested on a charge of drunken driving.
This is not the first time that the Washington County sheriff and federal immigration officials have tangled.
Back on Nov. 19, ICE singled out the county in a press release failing to detain Alejandro Maldonado-Hernandez, whom 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 connection with a July 12, 2019, crash that resulted in a death on Southwest Farmington Road in Aloha. He faces multiple charges, among them second-degree felony manslaughter. He fled to Mexico and is still at large, although sheriff's deputies have arrested others accused of abetting his flight.
The Sheriff's Office responded that ICE is aware that Oregon jails cannot keep people based solely on administrative detainers issued by ICE agents. It also said at the time it would have honored a warrant signed by a judge.
Garrett restated the basis for that policy, which followed a 2014 ruling by Magistrate Judge Janice Stewart in U.S. District Court in Portland. The restriction applies to the entire state.
"She ruled that when ICE serves jails with a detainer request to hold somebody for them, that does not have the force of law," Garrett said Thursday. "It is a request, and for jails to do that is unconstitutional. We were the first jail in the state, and in the West, to discontinue that practice the following day."
Stewart's 21-page ruling came in a lawsuit filed by Maria Miranda-Olivares, who had been held in the Clackamas County Jail in 2012 for violation of a restraining order. Her punishment was reduced to time already served, but she was detained in jail an extra 19 hours until ICE agents arrested her.
Stewart ruled that the detention deprived Miranda-Olivares of her liberty without due process — the county had no legal basis to continue to hold her — and violated her constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment. Clackamas County ended up paying her $100,000 in damages.
Back in March 2017, the Department of Homeland Security, the parent agency of ICE, spotlighted Washington County in a 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.
Under a 1987 Oregon law, which voters upheld in 2018 despite an attempt to repeal it, police agencies are barred from using state or local resources to enforce federal immigration laws. Gov. Kate Brown has extended that restriction by executive order to other state agencies.
"We follow it to the letter," Garrett said.
The same 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.
Under a 1996 federal law, state and local governments must release information about immigration status on request by federal agencies. Washington County and others that operate jails comply by issuing a daily list of foreign-born nationals who are inmates.
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