King County refuses to hold low-offense immigrants

AmericaOne of the most contentious issues in the debate over immigration reform has been that of federally requested holds on immigrants that are arrested for low-level crimes.  The problem has been dealt with in one major metropolitan area by the County Council announcing they will no longer honor federal authority requests to hold such prisoners.

The Metropolitan King County Council, for which Seattle is the county seat, decided on Monday, December 2nd, in a 5-4 vote, that local authorities would no longer have to follow particular directives of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division of the Department of Homeland Security.  The policy change will not affect those arrested for serious crimes such as burglary or sexual assault, but will give local law enforcement officers some leeway when it comes to detaining immigrants.

A statement has been issued by the council saying that the new policy is designed to “limit harsh impacts of the federal government’s misguided enforcement policies,” Seattle CBS affiliate KIRO states.  The decision of the council will have a major impact on immigration enforcement within King County with country sheriff John Urquhart pointing out that it would mean more effective prevention of crime, as well as enforcement, due to the fact that undocumented immigrants could now report criminal activity without fear of deportation.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington’s legislative director, Shankar Narayan, told the Seattle Times that the police in places such as King County need the community to be their eyes and ears, a function that is lost when they become associated with immigration enforcement.