The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office will not keep people in its jail longer than it takes to process their cases. Though Immigration and Customs Enforcement may request that illegal immigrants be imprisoned 48 hours longer for possible deportation, past court rulings have found that practice unconstitutional.
But Donald Trump, in a January executive order, directed local law enforcement agencies to help the feds as much as possible in locating and deporting people who are in the country illegally. That includes honoring ICE's demands.
Which puts Hennepin Sheriff Rich Stanek in a bit of a pickle.
On Monday, the Department of Homeland Security published a report of law enforcement agencies that were noncompliant during the week of January 28-February 3. Guess who made the naughty list.
In response, Stanek and County Attorney Mike Freeman held a joint news conference Thursday to protest that Hennepin County does cooperate with ICE as far as the law allows them to.
This includes maintaining a direct line of communication between the Sheriff's Office and ICE about when illegal immigrants are due to be released from jail so that ICE can re-arrest them seamlessly.
That process begins with asking every person who is booked about their country of origin, and giving that information to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which turns it over to the FBI. The FBI then hot-potatoes it over to ICE, federal agency to federal agency.
At that point, ICE can ask the Sheriff's Office to give a head's up when they should come over and pick somebody up for deportation.
There were two recent instances when this exact script played out.
Julio Salazar Vega, suspected of a drug violation, and Vicente Guerrero-Fernandez, suspected of weapon offenses, were both arrested by Minneapolis Police and booked on February 1. The next day, ICE asked the Sheriff's Office to help transfer the men into federal custody, and the Sheriff's Office told ICE to be ready at the exact moment of release.
When the men got discharged from jail the morning of February 3, they barely got a whiff of freedom before ICE officers had them in cuffs again.
"I think it's grossly unfair [of the Department of Homeland Security to] tell the public that two individuals that were here were released back out to the public without any type of cooperation, and these folks had a criminal background," Stanek said. "That's not the case. Unfortunately [Homeland Security] haven't said boo about it."
Freeman agreed that the sheriff did all he could do to cooperate with Trump's orders, stopping short of violating the Constitution.
"Most of us came to this country to be free and independent, and you can't hold somebody on a bureaucrat's statement that they'd like 'em held," the county attorney said. "ICE can get a warrant, get a judge to sign off, or they can be there on their release. But we can't hold them for another 48 hours. It's not constitutional, it's not legal."