Hennepin County sheriff says feds owe him an apology

County’s appearance on “non-cooperative” list was wrong, Sheriff Rich Stanek argued Thursday

Sheriff Rich Stanek speaking at a press conference Thursday, where he was joined by Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman. Photo by Dylan Thomas

Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek on Thursday said his department is owed an apology after it appeared on a federal list of “non-cooperative jurisdictions” called out for their lack of coordination with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Hennepin County appeared on the first of what are expected to be weekly reports from the Department of Homeland Security highlighting those jurisdictions nationally that fail to comply with federal requests to detain immigrants in custody until they can be handed over to ICE. The reports are mandated by an executive order President Donald Trump signed in January.

Although the report did not list the individuals by name, Stanek said the it referred to two men born in Mexico who were arrested by the Minneapolis Police Department and who, upon their Feb. 3 release from Hennepin County Jail, were taken directly into custody by ICE agents. Joined by Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, Stanek arranged a press conference Thursday “to clear up some inaccurate and misleading information,” he said.

Stanek displayed still images from jail security camera footage that he said documented the transfer of custody to two ICE agents inside the jail’s sally port.

“As I’ve said many times, there is no sanctuary for criminals anywhere in Hennepin County,” Stanek said. “Secondly, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office fully cooperates with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and all of our federal law enforcement partners to the full extent of the law. And then third, our agency respects and protects the constitutional rights of all the people we interact with.”

Freeman said Hennepin County used to comply with ICE requests to hold undocumented immigrants for up to 48 hours after their scheduled release from jail. The county halted that practice in 2014.

“What’s the problem with that? Most of us came to this country to be free and independent, and you can’t hold somebody on a bureaucrat’s statement that they’d like them held,” Freeman said.

“To be fair, we all make mistakes,” Freeman said. “ICE made a big one here, and I think the sheriff is owed an apology.”

Stanek said representatives of local immigrant communities contacted his office after the release of the report earlier in the week. They were concerned that they had heard one thing about the handling of immigrants in custody from his office and another from the feds.

Stanek explained that ICE learns about immigrants in detention at the jail through the FBI.

Everyone who enters the jail is fingerprinted and photographed at the time of booking, information that is collected by the state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. The FBI has access to a database maintained by the BCA and can choose to share the information with ICE, Stanek said.

He said deputies ask about country of origin but do not ask about immigration status.

“If they (ICE) want to talk to them upon release or transfer custody, they have to wait until the local charges are adjudicated. We don’t hold them any longer than that,” Stanek said, adding that the county regularly gives ICE 24 hours notice in advance of releasing inmates at the agency’s request.

Stanek said his office “always” complies with requests for notification from ICE, but agents only show up at the time of release for about one-third of those requests.

One of the two men who appeared in the DHS report was booked into Hennepin County Jail on probable cause for a weapons charge. The other was booked on probable cause for a fifth-degree narcotics charge.

“I think it’s grossly unfair that the tell the public that two individuals who were in custody here at the Hennepin County Jail were released back out to the public without any type of cooperation and that these folks had a criminal background,” he said. “That is not the case.”

Stanek said he had spoken with DHS officials at the state and federal level about the mix-up.

“As of yet, though, they haven’t said ‘boo’ about it,” he said.