Update: ICE has retracted these figures.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 33 people in Seattle in a four-day operation dubbed Operation Safe City.
According to an ICE press release, the operation specifically targeted jurisdictions that don’t honor detainer requests—which neither Seattle nor King County do. Detainer requests are requests made by federal authorities to local jurisdictions to hold on to people they arrest in order to give federal agents time to come to the jail and seize them; several courts have ruled that detaining someone not because of a crime they committed but because another government agency wants to get their hands on them is unconstitutional. Many jurisdictions have also concluded that honoring detainer requests makes cities less safe, because it give people a disincentive to make contact with law enforcement.
When King County banned the honoring of detainer requests in 2014, Councilmember Larry Gossett said:
“I am very pleased with the passage of this legislation as it aligns our policies with recent federal rulings. Of equal importance, it maintains public safety by honoring criminal warrants, which is the norm for anyone in the criminal justice system, and moves us closer to treating all those being detained in our correctional facilities with the same level of justice regardless of their immigration status.”
Similar points were made on Twitter following the announcement of Operation Safe City.
— UW Human Rights (@uwchr) September 29, 2017
However, ICE has long insisted detainer requests should be honored.
“Sanctuary jurisdictions that do not honor detainers or allow us access to jails and prisons are shielding criminal aliens from immigration enforcement and creating a magnet for illegal immigration,” ICE Acting Director Tom Homan said in the press release announcing the arrests. “As a result, ICE is forced to dedicate more resources to conduct at-large arrests in these communities.”
Operation Safe City resulted in 498 arrests total across the country, including 207 in Philadelphia, 101 in Los Angeles, and 63 in Denver.
The ICE press release notes that one of the people picked up in Seattle was a Mexican citizen convicted of DUI, reckless endangerment and negligent driving. All those offenses are misdemeanors.
We’ll update this post as we get more information about the arrests.