King County Sheriff: ‘We failed in our duty’ when documents released to ICE
King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht responded to reports that her office had released documents to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, violating a county ordinance that prohibits that level of cooperation without a judicial warrant.
“Today, I tell you that we failed in our duty to follow King County Code 2.15 when my office released roughly two dozen documents to ICE,” Sheriff Johanknecht said in a written statement.
The Sheriff’s Office says it received 25 requests for information from ICE between January 2018 and May 2019. A “majority” of the documents shared were arrest reports, with Johanknecht citing “human error” as the driving factor behind the release.
“We should have determined whether these requests were for civil immigration enforcement before releasing these documents. We did not,” she stated. “Although the release of this information appears to be due to human error, we have taken significant steps to insure this will not happen again.”
Protests in Seattle
Meanwhile, protesters flocked to downtown Seattle Thursday following the initial report.
“Any interactions with ICE by our King County officials are reprehensible,” said Joe Nguyen, 14th Legislative District representative. “We have to hold people accountable for the actions that put our most vulnerable communities at risk, it’s critical that we get this right because our communities can’t afford to live in fear for their safety.”
A new conference took place in front of the King County Administration Building at 12 p.m. Thursday. Officials objected to cooperation between the King County Sheriff’s Office and ICE.
The King County Auditor’s Office recently discovered that the sheriff’s office allowed ICE to access personal information on people booked into county jails. ICE was also able to view requested case files on people in contact with the sheriff’s office. King County Ordinance 18665 prohibits this cooperation, however. The regulation instructs the county not to provide ICE agents with personal information about King County residents without the existence of a judicial warrant requiring it.
“We refuse to be made helpless by the actions of others,” said King County Democrats Chair Shasti Conrad. “We reject the aggression of ICE and the overreach of the sheriff’s office. We stand firmly, unapologetically, in solidarity with our immigrant brothers and sisters, and call for immediate action to right the wrongs that have been done to them, and to us all.”
A range of elected officials and other leaders attended Thursday’s early-afternoon demonstration, including: Shasti Conrad, Chair, King County Democrats; Miguel Maestes, El Centro de la Raza; Girmay Zahilay, candidate, King County Council, District 2; Rich Stolz, Executive Director, One America; State Senator Joe Nguyen (D-34); State Rep. My-Linh Thai (D-41); King County Councilmembers Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Joe McDermott, Rod Demobowski, and Larry Gossett; Seattle City Councilmembers Teresa Mosqueda and Lorena González.
“We expect to be fully informed of how this failure happened, as well as the process in which files were purposely with ICE by the Sheriff’s Office,” said Maestes. “We expect a detailed explanation of how this will be corrected, and the steps the county will take to support and protect those whose information was obtained by ICE.”
This demonstration is organized by the Olympia Assembly, El Comité, and the May 1st Action Coalition.
According to the protest’s Facebook event page:
Migrant detention and deportation is big business for corporations and financial institutions. Bank of the West (a subsidiary of BNP Paribas) is one of the largest banks to provide significant funding to private prison corporations contracted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), including GEO Group (operator of Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma). It’s time to follow the money and effect the bottomline of entities that profit from the criminalization of migrants.
MyNorthwest’s Nick Bowman and Dyer Oxley contributed to this article.