“We have no plan to remove ICE from the jail,” Sheriff’s office working to clarify ICE presence at detention center

OKLAHOMA COUNTY, Okla. – Oklahoma County officials are releasing more information about the presence of ICE agents at the Oklahoma County Detention Center.

During a jail trustee meeting last month, there were demands made that ICE be removed from the detention center.

However, officials told News 4 that their presence at the jail is nothing new.

The sheriff’s office says the ICE agents have shared a desk in the booking area of the jail since 2015.

They say state and federal law required the jail to notify federal officials if an incoming inmate doesn’t have proper documentation. They say having ICE agents on-site helps speed up the booking process.

“We have to use ICE to make sure the people who are in our facility are who they say they are. It just really helped to speed up the process of getting people in and out of here,” said Mark Myers, with the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office.

Critics were concerned that people might be stopped for a minor traffic violation and then brought before an ICE agent.

“We are not making immigration raids, we are just picking up people for other offenses and finding out they are undocumented, and there are laws that speak to what we have to do about that,” said Oklahoma County Commissioner Brian Maughan.

On Thursday, the Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office released more information about the situation.

"Recently there has been a lot of discussion as it relates to the Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office and the role of ICE within the detention center. We have no plan to remove ICE from the jail, but it seems within the discussion various efforts are being combined and confused. We hope this explanation will help clarify ICE's involvement when we process an inmate at the Oklahoma County Detention Center.

The first potential ICE contact with inmates is during the booking process. Oklahoma statute 22O.S. 171.2 requires citizenship status of individuals charged with felonies and DUI's to be checked. Additionally, the same statute requires foreign born nationals that cannot prove they have been lawfully admitted into the United States to also have their status checked. ICE's presence in the building aids the Sheriff's Office in complying with this legal mandate.

The second opportunity for ICE to be involved in an inmate's process is upon release. When ICE identifies an individual they want to further investigate, ICE will issue a detainer requesting a hold for that individual for up to 48 hours allowing an ICE agent to come and take that individual into custody. These detainers have been subject to several legal challenges with different jurisdictions finding the practice of honoring the detainers to be unconstitutional. While the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Oklahoma, has not weighed in directly on this issue, we take notice of the varied results around the country. Even within the 10th Circuit there are two cases in different districts in Colorado that conflict with each other as to the ability to honor ICE detainers. ICE detainers are requests, not mandatory warrants signed by a judge and they are not a legally enforceable mandate. This is the position adopted by ICE. Since the detainers are not mandatory, any choice made to honor them brings along the possibility of civil liability if the detainer is found to be unconstitutional.

So, in an effort to guard against the risk of liability to the Sheriff's Office and Oklahoma County, when an individual with an ICE detainer is set for release on their state charges ICE is notified in advance and has several hours to come take that individual into custody prior to the inmate's scheduled release. Individuals set for release on their state charges are not held any additional time solely on an ICE detainer. As we previously stated, honoring the 48 hour ICE detainers could subject Oklahoma County and the Sheriff's Office to unnecessary legal liability.

ICE will stay in the Oklahoma County Detention Center as a resource to help expedite the identification process within the jail. We continue to have discussions with ICE, the U.S. Attorney's Office, and the Oklahoma County District Attorney's Office regarding this issue."

Critics released a joint statement on Thursday afternoon:

"The response from the Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office is another attack aimed to silence local leaders from exposing their deep collaboration with ICE. We understand the laws to which they refer in their statement, but we continue to object to this flawed interpretation, which subjects our community to increased civil rights violations, racial profiling and fear that occurs not only at the hands of ICE but also of local law enforcement. ICE is not doing desk paperwork at the Jail- they are applying another layer of discrimination and enabling Oklahoma County to be complicit in the unconstitutional practice of issuing immigration detainers. ICE recently detained a US citizen for 28 days for nothing less than being brown, and they defended themselves with this foreign-born argument. The truth is both Oklahoma County Jail and ICE are attempting to remove those who don't 'look like citizens,' with county residents footing the bill. With this happening throughout the country and the Oklahoma City metro area, how can non-white people feel safe? It is utter hypocrisy that the Oklahoma County Jail pretends to comply with federal mandates when the federal government itself refuses to recognize this detention center as constitutional due to the extensive list of human rights violations and deplorable conditions incarcerated Oklahomans are subjected to there. They are not protecting any one by enabling ICE to incite more fear and trauma in our communities and endorsing their trespasses against Oklahomans."

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