One County Decides to Stop Working With Immigration Enforcement

Jose Robles entered the United States 13 years ago with the goal of creating a better life for his family. After an argument with his neighbor, he found himself threatened with deportation, even though no charges were filed. Why? Because he was an undocumented immigrant, and under tough anti-immigrant laws in the United States, his encounter with law enforcement raised a flag in the system. He went from supporting his family to immigration detention, and his story is far from unique.

That’s all going to change in King County, Washington, which contains Seattle and outlying communities. The county council just voted 5-4 to suspend cooperation with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when it comes to immigration holds for minor crimes. Law enforcement will only detain suspected undocumented immigrants convicted of major crimes (sexual assault, significant traffic crimes like DUI, rape) and turn them over to ICE, while keeping other residents within its own law enforcement system.

Council members have been pushing for this since last year, arguing that it’s necessary for health and safety in the huge county, which includes a large immigrant population. King County has already stood out with its provision of social services to all residents regardless of immigration status, and this is another big move for immigration rights. While some advocates would prefer county law enforcement not cooperate at all with ICE, this could be a first step to severing ties even further, and it also sets an example for the rest of the nation.

Explaining the rationale for the choice, county council officials note that this is simply a smart move for a community where people might be afraid to report crimes or intervene in dangerous situations for fear of ending up with deportation orders. For example, a woman might not report an abusive spouse if she was concerned her family might be detained and then deported. The decision to turn away from ICE fosters a more positive working relationship between immigrants and law enforcement in the community, making it easier to work on common goals, like making communities safer and healthier.

King County isn’t the only locale in the United States that has cut ties with ICE or severely limited its cooperation. Cook County doesn’t cooperate with ICE detainers, Boston’s mayor-elect isn’t thrilled about cooperating with ICE and California’s TRUST Act limits the state’s collaboration with the agency, to begin a long list of cities, counties and states that are reconsidering whether harsh detention and deportation laws are the best approach to immigration in the United States. Notably, the arguments for passing such laws have been similar across the United States, as law enforcement, legislators, communities and activists worry about the culture of fear and distrust of law enforcement created by mandatory detention laws, especially in the shadow of the huge industry created around immigration detention in the country.

The rising tide against ICE could be a very positive sign in a nation conflicted over its handling of immigration and reform of immigration policies. Clearly, the current system is endangering immigrants, their families and communities, with a growing list of deportees pushed out into nations they may never have set foot in, or where they may be in critical danger if they return. A national revolt against the agency from law enforcement agencies, county and city councils, and other authorities could send a powerful message about reform.

Is King County’s Halt to Cooperating With ICE a Small Step Towards Immigration Reform?

When it Comes to Immigration Issues, This County Decides it’s Not a Matter ICE Should Handle

Photo credit:>Elvert Barnes.


Pam Bacon
Pam Bacon2 years ago

I don't have a problem with anyone who wants to come to the US for a better life, but do it LEGALLY. The US has rules just like every other country. To ignore them makes a person a criminal right from the start. Line up a job/sponsor and learn to speak the language before you enter ANY country. Anything less is lazy and disrespectful.

Winn Adams
Winn Adams2 years ago

Good for King County!

Lou DeLucia
Lou DeLucia2 years ago

This is the right link to the article:

"ObamaCare and Immigration Reform
You can't have open borders and a generous welfare state."

You need to sign in to read it.

But, here are others to the same article at different websites:

Rhonda Bird
Rhonda B.2 years ago


Susan T.
Susan T.2 years ago

Jose, illegal. Why is it nearly Impossible for some people to immigrate here LEGALLY?
you are not an honest person.

Jose L.
Jose L.2 years ago

Lou D, I am not able to read the article (paywall or something), but I wonder if I am looking at the same good analysis you mentioned. Near the top (which I can read), it says:

> Only hours before House Democrats voted on March 21 for a federal take-over of the US healthcare system

OK, there has been no such thing happen, so is this a parody or is it referring to some other US or what exactly?

Are you sure you gave the right link?

Lou DeLucia
Lou DeLucia2 years ago

Here's an interesting analysis on how a runaway welfare system and Illegal Alien Immigration combines to make a dysfunctional society:

Jose L.
Jose L.2 years ago

Susan T, I think it's a good thing to let more people come here and help the US grow, the problem is the same general problem any "store" faces. You want more customers and participants but you want to at a minimum preserve what you have. So the default is to be stingy in who comes through that doors; however, we all know that some people have found the right policies and preparation to thrive off of allowing a lot of people through the doors.

Yes, bad policies can do harm, but we should move the conversation over to finding these good polices rather than to keep the conversation where xenophobia rules. The Republican party (Tea Party side) has adopted the former. The business side of the party is, along with Democrats in office, looking at the latter. We should focus on tapping humanity to make this nation the best rather than thinking that the only way is to merely survive and do so by being inhumane.

Jose L.
Jose L.2 years ago

>> both are going through legal channels and both are getting screwed but it is OK for criminals to not follow the law and come here illegally?

Let's say that after a certain amount of screwing and with some urgent needs, your friends confides that they will just try the illegal route (or maybe over stay a visa). They tell you they are still the same person and respect the law, but they have a strong hardship, etc, and will pay it back 2x. We all know what it is like to cut corners. Anyway, will you unconditionally disavow that person or might you just say that they had a weakness and that you are glad it's not you having to make that decision for your own life?

If the latter, then maybe you understand already largely why I sympathize with illegal aliens. Especially, since I certainly know I have a lot and could have a lot less (and would) in many other nations. It's not just material things (and food, etc) but freedom and opportunity to be productive.

We could use a friendlier policy towards immigration, period. And I think that is the direction the Senate bill moves.

Jose L.
Jose L.2 years ago

>> Am I allowed to move to Mexico, Canada, Saudi Arabia, the UK, or any other country without proper paperwork? NO

>> but illegal immigration into the USA is OK? Why? please explain

I think the US makes it illegal not to go through proper channels. Same as with the other countries, I suspect. I haven't done the research to see what enforcement is like. Your comment makes it sound like if the US allows illegal aliens at will. That is obviously not true. And you would be mistaken to think that other nations don't have illegal aliens. Spain a few years back had a massive amnesty with their many illegal immigrants.

So I assumed you meant that the US is simply less abusive than some of those other nations. It was hard to figure out exactly what you meant, but at face value, it seems you are making incorrect statements.