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ICE Targets Sanctuary Cities, Arrests 33 In Northwest

<p class="regdt">Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017.</p>

Manuel Balce Ceneta


Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Thursday it targeted hundreds of people in sanctuary cities, including Seattle and Portland, during a four-day operation called "Safe City."

ICE said it targeted communities that don't honor the agency's detainers and "where ICE deportation officers are denied access to jails and prisons to interview suspected immigration violators."

A detainer is a request ICE makes to local jails to hold people in custody that it suspects have entered the country illegally. They allow ICE to eventually assume custody of the person and potentially begin deportation proceedings.

In 2014, a federal judge in Oregon ruled detainers were not a legally sufficient way to hold someone in prison. After the ruling, sheriffs in Oregon and other states stopped honoring the requests.

Since then, even sheriffs sympathetic to ICE's mission have asked the agency's officers to go before a judge and get a warrant — something they've not been willing or able to do.

ICE misreported the number of people arrested during this latest sweep in the Northwest at least two times, an ICE spokeswoman confirmed Friday.

The latest figures from ICE indicate 26 people were arrested in Washington state, including in Vancouver, Seattle, Federal Way, and Everett. The agency arrested seven people in Oregon cities that included Salem, Portland and Gresham.

ICE said during the "Safe City" operation it prioritized "criminal convictions, pending criminal charges, known gang members and affiliates, immigration fugitives and those who re-entered the U.S. after deportation."

The agency said people with active DACA status were "not targeted for arrest."

The Trump administration has criticized sheriffs who don't cooperate with federal detainer requests.

Earlier this month, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke in Portland where he criticized law enforcement leaders and politicians for directing officers to refuse detainers.

“The result is that police are forced to release the criminal alien back into the community without regard to the seriousness of his crimes or the length of his rap sheet,” Sessions said. “They should, according to law and common sense, be processed and deported.”

Following his speech, Sessions met with several law enforcement officers from the Portland area.

Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese said that Sessions “refused to acknowledge” the 2014 court ruling against ICE detainers during the closed door meeting.

“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 a statement Thursday.

“As a result, ICE is forced to dedicate more resources to conduct at-large arrests in these communities,” he said.

Copyright 2017 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Conrad Wilson is a reporter and producer covering criminal justice and legal affairs for OPB.