Sheriff Rich Stanek has always said, “There’s no sanctuary for criminals in Hennepin County.”
It’s why he maintains a pipeline from the county jail to Immigration Customs and Enforcement.
In September, Stanek explained in letter what immigration advocates have long suspected, that his jail staff asks inmates for their place of birth at the point of booking. If they answer they’re foreign born, the Sheriff’s Office will share their fingerprints with the BCA, which in turn sends them to the FBI and then to the Department of Homeland Security and ICE. In addition, the Sheriff’s Office will arrange for ICE agents to interview them over the phone.
When inmates are about to be released from jail, if ICE has requested notification, ICE gets another call so agents can be at the ready to take them straight into federal custody.
The practice worries proponents of sanctuary policies, who argue that fear of deportation will discourage undocumented immigrants from reporting crimes and cooperating with police investigations. Minneapolis has a “separation ordinance” that prohibits police from asking suspects for their immigration status for this reason. But as long as the Sheriff’s Office follows its rules, Minneapolis can’t be a true sanctuary city.
In light of Stanek's revelations, Minneapolis city council member Cam Gordon proposed reviewing the city’s contract with the Hennepin County Jail, noting that arrestees are not convicted criminals.
County commissioners don’t have the power to tell Stanek, another elected official, what to do in his own jail. Though there’s been talk of adopting sanctuary-style rules to prevent other county functions, like health and human services, from sharing residents’ immigration status with ICE, the jail remains an open source of information.
Instead, immigrant advocates have asked the county board to provide legal aid funding to better the chances for inmates to fight deportation.
Commissioner Marion Greene has proposed two budget amendments to do just that.
The first would designate $250,000 for a legal defense fund for immigrants arrested by ICE upon their release from the jail. The other would spend $25,000 for the creation of a new booking protocol, requring the Sheriff’s Office to equip every inmate with a paper advisory in multiple languages stating that they are not legally required to tell anyone about their place of birth, or speak with an ICE agent.
Greene will introduce these amendments on Thursday.