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Trump Administration Halts Reports on Immigration Cooperation

The New York Times

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Credit Frederic J. Brown/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration will temporarily stop publication of a weekly report spotlighting cities and counties that fail to cooperate with federal immigration officials, people briefed on the change said, after several jurisdictions questioned the accuracy of the data.

The report, required by an executive order signed by President Trump in January, shows localities that decline requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to hold undocumented immigrants so they can be picked up later for deportation.

ICE officials say the lack of cooperation endangers Americans, but cities and counties named in the reports say they are an attempt to force them to collaborate with the immigration authorities.

Sarah Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for ICE, confirmed the temporary suspension of the report, saying it would allow the agency to “analyze and refine its reporting methodologies.”

The first report, released last month, was intended to provide a complete tally of cities and counties that had declined requests from ICE. But it contained misleading information that prompted confusion and defiance among law enforcement officials from the jurisdictions named.

For example, Nisha Agarwal, commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, said the ICE report incorrectly listed the city as being uncooperative even though it does assist the immigration agency.

Ms. Agarwal said the city responded to ICE requests to detain people who had committed a violent crime or who were on a terrorism watch list. It does not respond to requests for people who have been convicted of minor crimes or have had charges against them dropped, she said.

One of the nation’s largest counties — Nassau County, N.Y., on Long Island — was also listed as noncooperative in the first report. But the Nassau County Sheriff’s Department said it was one of the first localities in the nation to agree to accept administrative warrants from the agency.

Officials there said ICE had apologized for including the county in its initial report.

ICE also apologized to Franklin County, Pa., for including it on a list of the top 10 noncompliant jurisdictions. The county said it had been erroneously placed on the list even though it provides reports on prisoners to ICE and grants the agency access to inmates for interviews.

Stephen Ritchey, assistant director at ICE’s office in York, Pa., wrote, “On a personal note, I would like to apologize for the unwarranted attention this issue has placed on you and your staff.”

In Minnesota, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office called the report “incorrect in many ways” and also demanded an apology from ICE officials.

Sheriff Richard Stanek of Hennepin County said his office had cooperated with requests from ICE and notified immigration officials when two undocumented immigrants wanted by the federal authorities were going to be released. He said both inmates were transferred into ICE custody when they were released from jail.

During a news conference last month, Mr. Stanek displayed time-stamped pictures from his jail showing the two inmates being picked up by deportation agents the day they were released.

Jon Collins, a spokesman for the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, said ICE had not issued a correction or an apology for its description of the county’s cooperation.

Disagreements over whether ICE has the authority to force local law enforcement officials to hold inmates suspected of being undocumented immigrants for the federal authorities has been a point of contention for years.

ICE issues a so-called detainer to ask a city or a county to hold a person in custody after charges have been dismissed in a criminal case, or after the accused has posted bail or completed a sentence. The detainer gives the agency up to 48 hours to look into the person’s immigration status and, where appropriate, begin deportation procedures.

But federal judges in Pennsylvania, Illinois and Oregon have ruled that accepting detainers without judicial warrants is unconstitutional and that counties could be held liable. A similar case on the lawfulness of detainers is pending before the Massachusetts Supreme Court.

Officials at the Department of Homeland Security said that they did not think the agency needed a warrant to ask local jurisdictions to hold immigrants believed to be undocumented, and that they considered the detainers legally sufficient.

The weekly reports are part of Mr. Trump’s get-tough policies on illegal immigration. He has pledged to find, arrest and deport people who are in the country illegally, regardless of whether they have committed serious crimes; to build a wall on the border with Mexico; and to hire 15,000 new Border Patrol and ICE agents.

Mr. Trump has also directed the Department of Homeland Security to publicize crimes by undocumented immigrants, strip such immigrants of privacy protections, enlist local police officers as enforcers, build new detention facilities, discourage asylum seekers and, ultimately, speed up deportations.

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