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US Government Targets Local Agencies For Refusing to Hold Illegal Immigrants


President Donald Trump holds up an executive order for border security and immigration enforcement improvements after signing the order during a visit to the Homeland Security Department headquarters in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The Trump administration says some American law enforcement agencies have failed to help the federal government detain undocumented immigrants.

The administration has released a list of local agencies it says did not cooperate with federal immigration agents.

This is the first of what the United States Department of Homeland Security says will be weekly reports. The first report is for the week from January 28 through February 3.

President Donald Trump asked for the reports as part of an “executive order” on illegal immigration. Trump signed the order on January 25, five days after he became president. (What is an executive order?)

In the first weekly report, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said it asked local government agencies for help 3,083 times. ICE wanted them to detain people who it believes could be expelled from the country for violating immigration law. The report said local police failed to act on 206 of those requests.

About two-thirds of the cases are from Travis County, Texas. Travis County includes Austin, the state capital.

The county’s new sheriff, Sally Hernandez, announced last month that she would not act on all federal requests to hold people in the local prison.

Major Wes Priddy works for the Travis County’s Sheriff Department. He said the county decided to hold only people jailed for major crimes, such as murder, sexual assault, human trafficking or crimes against children or old people.

Priddy said that Sheriff Hernandez believes people accused of a crime have a right to a trial and that victims have a right to see the people responsible “brought to justice.”

That explanation does not satisfy Texas Governor Greg Abbott. He said what Sheriff Hernandez is doing “puts the lives of our citizens at risk.”

Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, left, talks with Texas Governor Greg Abbott, right
Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, left, talks with Texas Governor Greg Abbott, right

The other agencies listed as turning down the largest number of detention requests are Clark County in Nevada, New York’s Nassau County and Cook County in Illinois.

In a statement, ICE said a refusal to act on its requests to hold prisoners hurts the agency’s “ability to protect the public safety.”

But some local government officials questioned the accuracy of the new report.

Nassau County officials told the New York Times that they act on requests from ICE to hold prisoners for deportation.

New York City was listed as turning down four requests to hold detainees at its prisons.

Nisha Agarwal is New York’s Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs. She said the city accepts requests from ICE to hold people who are “a serious threat to the safety of all New Yorkers, immigrant or otherwise.”

But it does not hold people in jail for minor offenses or people who have not been given a trial, she said.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has said his city does not want immigrants to be afraid to report crimes for fear they might be subject to deportation.

Montgomery County, Maryland is just outside of Washington D.C. It, too, is included on the ICE list for refusing a request to hold a person charged with assault.

Montgomery County said it provides information to ICE about people on federal lists for immigration violations, but only after they are found guilty of a major crime and have completed their prison sentences.

On Monday, County Executive Ike Leggett spoke about the policy and how it would affect the arrest of two people last weekend. They are accused of raping a student at a high school. Both are listed by the federal government as being in the United States illegally, Leggett said.

He added that if the two men are found guilty of the rape charges, they will serve their sentences in Montgomery County. After the sentences are completed, the county will work with ICE “to see that the two are deported” back to their native countries, he said.

Bruce Alpert reported on this story for Learning English. His report was based information from VOANews.com, the Department of Homeland Security and other sources. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

update - n. a report that includes the most recent information about something

assault - n. an attack

custody - n. to hold someone in prison or a similar place

accuracy - n. information that contains no mistakes

deportation - v. to remove people from a country

otherwise - adj. in all ways except the one mentioned

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