MOUNT VERNON — The Skagit County Jail changed its policy Thursday to no longer hold inmates on Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers after their sentences are complete or their bail has been posted.
In a message to his jail staff, Sheriff Will Reichardt stated the jail will no longer hold people for ICE because it puts the county at risk for lawsuits. According to Reichardt’s statement, the decision was made on advice from legal counsel. The Sheriff’s Office has informed ICE of its decision.
A recent court decision in Oregon that found the detainer requests are not orders that local jurisdictions have to follow and that local sheriffs could be liable for constitutional violations for holding people past the time when they would otherwise be released.
Chief of Corrections Charlie Wend said the jail’s common practice previously was to ask ICE to pick up people it had detainers on or to only hold over weekends if needed. Jail staff would also advise those with detainers not to bother posting bail.
Wend said these practices end with the policy change, and he expects many other Washington counties to begin implementing similar policy changes.
The ruling caused most counties in Oregon to change their policies.
In Washington, Walla Walla, Kitsap and Thurston counties recently changed their policies. King County stopped complying last year with requests to detain people suspected of being in the United States illegally, according to The Associated Press.
The issue around holding immigrants in jails has been a rallying point for immigration advocates. In Washington, a measure that would have prohibited local jurisdictions from detaining immigrants unless the person had been convicted of a serious crime was pushed in Olympia. The bill died, but a similar measure was approved in California, and the number of detainers there dropped significantly.