Idaho jail calls US officials about all foreign-born inmates

Posted at 5:56 AM, Jun 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-12 07:56:52-04

CALDWELL, Idaho — Workers at a southwestern Idaho county jail are notifying federal immigration officials when they are holding foreign born inmates, including those who are United States citizens.

The Idaho Press reported in a story Tuesday that emails obtained for the month of March through a public records request provided details of how Canyon County jail employees contact Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials about inmates.

Jail workers are instructed to notify immigration officials for "all foreign born inmates" and inmates are held longer than they normally would be at the request of federal immigration enforcement officials, the Canyon County Sheriff's Office said.

Several emails obtained by the newspaper described how a Canyon County worker contacted immigration officials to check on an inmate who turned out to be a U.S. citizen.

"Have just booked in a foreign born," an email said. "(S)tates she is a citizen, she is currently being held on a zero bond until court Monday."

The woman had been taken to the Canyon County Jail because of drug-related charges.

A deportation officer replied a short time later that "travel records indicate this subject is a USC (U.S. Citizen). Therefore, she is not removable from the US and no detainer will be placed."

The county faces three lawsuits involving its handling of inmates who were in the U.S. illegally.

The lawsuits contend that jail staff turn inmates over to immigration officials after inmates have posted bond and should be released under Idaho law.

"These lawsuits relate to Canyon County's refusal to allow our clients to be released from custody solely due to a request from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that they remain detained," Ben Stein, an attorney with Immigrant Justice Idaho, told the newspaper. "When a county continues to detain anyone longer than state law allows simply due to a request from ICE, the county is engaging in a warrantless arrest."

Lee Morales of the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho said the county's close relationship with U.S. immigration officials was worrying.

"I think it's also very alarming how proactive Canyon County staff are, requesting holds for certain detainees that they have in their custody," Morales said. "I would say that when local law enforcement interact with other governmental agencies, particularly in the context of detention and potential loss of liberty, we should all be very concerned."