Sheriff Fires Back After Kern County Named In ICE Report

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com/AP) — The sheriff of Kern County became the latest law enforcement official to fire back at a weekly “name-and-shame” ICE report on jurisdictions the agency says refuse to cooperate in immigration enforcement operations.

Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said at a news conference Thursday that the report is riddled with errors and that he can’t believe his conservative, largely agricultural county is counted with Los Angeles and New York among the worst offenders.

“There just seems to be some confusion out of Washington, D.C., on who is cooperating and who is not,” Youngblood said. “This has to be resolved. You can’t go around putting out fake information.”

Several other sheriffs and police chiefs from around the country complained at a meeting in Washington last week about the report and accuracy, but most were from local departments at odds with President Donald Trump over immigration crackdowns, including some that label themselves sanctuary cities for immigrants with questionable legal status.

ICE officials have emphasized that the report is based on the best information available to them.

Youngblood cited the report covering the week ending Feb. 10, which said that Kern County received 65 requests from ICE to hold people who had been arrested until their immigration status could be checked, commonly known as “detainers” in law enforcement. The report puts the county third after LA and New York as jurisdictions that have received the most such requests and routinely refuse to comply with them.

Youngblood says his department only got 25 such requests for the entire month of February.

“Kern County is very conservative,” he said. “It would be virtually impossible for us to be third in the country,” adding that “we cooperate probably as much as anybody in the state of California with ICE.”

Trump won Kern County with 54.7 percent of the vote, according to Politico.

Youngblood acknowledged that his department does often reject detainer requests from ICE on constitutional grounds, but that they circumvent that by allowing ICE agents generous access to jails and databases.

“They just come in and deport who they need to deport and do their job and it takes the sheriff out of the equation,” Youngblood said.

ICE said in a statement that the report reflects “jurisdictions that have — in the past — publicly expressed unwillingness to fully comply with ICE’s detainer requests or have not provided ICE with sufficient time to allow for the safe transfer of a detainee. ICE seeks cooperation from all its law enforcement partners to achieve our mutual goal of protecting public safety.”

David Lapan, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, ICE’s parent agency, earlier acknowledged errors in the reports and said they would be addressed and corrected as they are identified.

Youngblood, who casts himself as a law-and-order figure and can be seen atop the home page of the sheriff’s website on horseback wearing a cowboy hat and jeans, emphasized that misinformation in an area like his “can have a direct impact on elected officials.”

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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