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Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office Weighs Options Under Executive Immigration Order

Nadya Faulx
KMUW/File photo
Sheriff Jeff Easter speaks to commissioners during Wednesday's meeting.

The Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday asked commissioners for input on how to respond to a recent executive order on immigration. The county stands to lose millions in federal funding if it doesn’t comply with the controversial order.

Sheriff Jeff Easter says Sedgwick County faces a dilemma: Comply with requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain undocumented immigrants for up to 48 hours after their criminal charges are resolved, and be subject to lawsuits. Or, continue its current policy of not honoring those requests, and risk losing up to $12 million in federal grants.

Easter said his office stopped detaining individuals for ICE after a federal court ruled in 2014 that the 48-hour hold requests aren't mandates. For that reason, Sedgwick County, and five others in Kansas, is considered a sanctuary county--a designation Easter said is just a political term. Now, President Donald Trump’s recent immigration order is threatening to strip federal dollars from so-called sanctuary jurisdictions.

"If for whatever reason they decide they can withhold $11 to $12 million, then the decision’s gonna have to made whether or not to honor the 48-hour hold and then put up with the potential for lawsuits after that," Easter said.

Credit Nadya Faulx / KMUW
Commissioner Richard Ranzau listens as Sheriff Jeff Easter explains the county's two options under a new executive order on immigration.

The county detention facility notifies ICE of its current inmates; the federal agency gets involved if it has identified possible undocumented immigrants, Easter explained. He said ICE will then send over a detainer, but won't provide a probable cause statement to support the 48-hour hold.

"What constitutes a probable cause statement, we don't feel this fits," he said. "If they submitted a probable cause affidavit, we would hold them that additional 48 hours."

Commissioner David Dennis said one way or another, the money at stake will come out of the county's budget.

"Ultimately it's going to be the tax payers in Sedgwick county that are either going to lose $11 or $12 million, or they're going to have to start paying court fees if you get sued," he said.

Commissioners said they will consult legal staff before offering input. Sheriff Easter will make the final decision.


Follow Nadya Faulx on Twitter @NadyaFaulx.

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Nadya Faulx is KMUW's Digital News Editor and Reporter, which means she splits her time between working on-air and working online, managing news on KMUW.org, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. She joined KMUW in 2015 after working for a newspaper in western North Dakota. Before that she was a diversity intern at NPR in Washington, D.C.