Jails no longer holding undocumented immigrants for ICE agents

Jails no longer holding undocumented immigrants for ICE agents »Play Video
WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- KEPR is digging deeper into the policy on holding undocumented immigrants in jail.

Following a judge's ruling that immigration police's requests for 48 detainers on undocumented immigrants don't have to be honored, the Walla Walla County sheriff opted to stop holding them.

It's a measure that could end up saving tens of thousands of dollars a year. Now other local counties are following suit.

The Feds would ask and local jails would follow. It was a typical practice that, if someone was arrested for a crime and later found to be an undocumented immigrant, the jail would hold them until they could be picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

Now, that's no longer the case.

A federal judge ruled that county jails don't have to honor the request to hold the person. Walla Walla County was one of the first counties in the state to say they would stop holding the undocumented immigrants all-together.

Walla Walla County's sheriff tells us they get anywhere from 50 to 70 of these detainer orders every year. So, by not honoring them anymore, it could be freeing up a lot of space in the jail - and potentially saving thousands of dollars.

The jail spends roughly $10,000 a year granting the detainer requests.

Locals like Lori Edwards are worried by the idea that the offenders who just got released from jail are free to walk and aren't deported.

"Letting them out illegally and then picking them up again, it's just going to be a domino reaction," she said.

Benton and Franklin Counties quickly followed suit. They will no longer hold people on immigration issues, if they would otherwise be set free for the crime they are accused of. Now, federal agents will only be able to pick someone up after the offender is released.

Lori doesn't think this will be the end of the discussion. She thinks there should be a better way to keep the immigrants who land themselves in jail off the streets.

"It's just maybe not safe, and everybody wants to be safe in their own communities," she said.

We were unable to nail down a total on typical costs for Benton and Franklin Counties when it comes to immigration holds each year.

The judge's ruling on this issue came out of a lawsuit against a county in Oregon. A woman sued after she was held for more than the traditional 48 hours.