Board of County Commissioners
Jerome Delvin, District 1 • Shon Small, District 2 • James Beaver, District 3
OFFICE OF THE SHERIFF
STEVEN N. KEANE, SHERIFF
Benton County cooperates with ICE, not a sanctuary for illegal immigrants
Kennewick, WA – Benton County officials have received inquiries asking whether Benton County is a “sanctuary county,” prompted by President Trump’s recent executive order aimed at seeking local and state governments’ cooperation with federal immigration enforcement efforts.
There is no universal or legal definition of a “sanctuary” city or county. Research indicates that the term arose in the immigration context in the 1980s when local governments in certain cities began to designate themselves as sanctuary cities based on policies adopted to limit cooperation with or involvement in federal immigration enforcement efforts. For instance, in 1979 the City of Los Angeles adopted one of the earliest policies indicative of a “sanctuary city,” which prevented police officers from inquiring about the immigration status of arrestees. This is a common policy today among those cities that consider themselves to be “sanctuary cities.”
Over the last thirty years, numerous large cities around the country have adopted that policy and additional explicit policies to restrict the cooperation of local law enforcement with the federal government on immigration enforcement. In addition to refusing to inquire about immigration status, some localities have written ordinances, regulations or policies that shield criminal aliens from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by denying ICE access to interview incarcerated aliens, prohibiting staff from communicating with ICE and prohibiting staff from informing ICE that it holds a criminal alien or when that person is scheduled for release from custody.
Neither the Benton County Sheriff nor the Benton County Board of Commissioners have adopted any such policies, and in fact Benton County law enforcement officers cooperate to the fullest legal extent with ICE efforts. Corrections officers at the Benton County jail regularly communicate with ICE about suspected criminal aliens, allow ICE to interview such suspects in our jail, and notify ICE of scheduled release dates so that ICE can arrange to legally take custody of the suspect upon his or her release on local charges.
However, one aspect of ICE’s enforcement operations has been deemed unconstitutional by several federal courts. In order to avoid violating the United States Constitution and to ensure no such violations occur that could result in local tax dollars being paid to illegal immigrants and their attorneys, the Benton County Sheriff’s Office requires that ICE obtain an order from a judicial officer if ICE wants an inmate held beyond the scheduled release date on local charges. This practice of complying with the United States Constitution, however, makes the job of ICE officers more difficult and, unfortunately, has caused some persons to misleadingly label Benton County as a “sanctuary county.”
Despite this accusation, Benton County is not a “sanctuary county.” The County has reviewed the executive order recently executed by President Trump, and does not believe that Benton County is a “sanctuary jurisdiction” as defined in the order. Further, the County does not believe the order will affect any federal funding currently received. If you have further questions, please contact Shyanne Faulconer at Shyanne.Faulconer@co.benton.wa.us or (509) 222-3760.
About Benton County
Benton County is a located in south-central Washington. The county seat is located in Prosser, and its largest city is Kennewick. Benton County was created on March 8, 1905 and was named after U.S. Senator Thomas Hart Benton. Benton County operates under the plural executive form of government with three commissioners and seven other elected officials. Benton County has offices located in Prosser, Kennewick, and Richland. For more information, please visit www.co.benton.wa.us.