What is an immigration "hold"?

Washington County (WaCo) is honoring Immigrant & Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer requests; that is, WaCo is imprisoning immigrants for no reason other than deportation by ICE.

An immigration "hold" is not legally binding; it is a request from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE issues these requests to local law enforcement agencies. In 2014, a court ruled that local law enforcement agencies are not required to honor an ICE hold. In any circumstance in which an agency honors a detainer request—it is a completely voluntary act. (see Galarza v. Szalczyk).  In our case, ICE sends the request to Sheriff Tim Helder.  

Who Is Helder Hurting?

ICE holds especially hurt young people, women and LGBTQI-identified persons, due to vast systems of oppression and violence.  For example, LGBTQI immigrants are more likely to experience homelessness due to family abandonment and/or job discrimination. These challenging factors lead to the eventual criminalization of this population. In the case of women, many women are more likely to tolerate physical abuse than call the police, as they often fear that their abusive partner, or they themselves, will be deported.

I was once present as a Washington County Sheriff's Department delivered two immigrants to ICE custody. They walked in tiny shackled steps, escorted by the deputy, bound at the wrists and ankles, and one of them was a woman clutching the biggest Bible I have ever seen, her eyes brimming with tears.  As one Latina organizer stated, Sheriff Helder is deporting far more maids and hardworking parents than murderers and rapists.

Holds versus Warrants

This brings us to another point: if ICE truly thought someone was dangerous, they could seek a legally binding warrant from a judge.  Instead, they merely ask Sheriff Helder to hold them, and he does so, even though he has no legal obligation to do so.

287g & S-Comm

287g is a program by which immigrants admitted into Sheriff Helder's jail are screened and flagged as potentially deportable.  Like 287g, S-Comm also deploys racist and misogynist violence against immigrants. However, S-Comm is different in that it only flags immigrants who have a previous record with ICE. That is, ICE may have deported them in the past.  Thanks to Sheriff Helder, these immigrants will be separated from their communities, and worse, they could acquire a permanent bar to their reunification with their family and community in Washington County. (see footnote 1)

Trump Lauds the Programs

These programs facilitate xenophobic, racist, misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic and ablest state violence, disproportionately hurting women, people of color, people with disabilities, queer and trans immigrants, and children. This may explain why President Trump lauds these programs. In addition,  it raises a serious question: why would the Washington County Democrats endorse Sheriff Helder while he is participating in these programs?


Please call Sheriff Helder at 479-444-5700 and tell him; “If ICE wants to deport someone, let them go before a judge and request a warrant, like any other law enforcement agency.”  

ICE is not likely to make the effort. (see footnote 2)


[1] We are asking Sheriff Helder to end participation in any programs that would result in
deportation. 287g and S-Comm both must go, but S-Comm was responsible for 60 percent of all interior deportations in fiscal year 2013 and 73 percent in fiscal year 2014.
[2] http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/crime/king-snohomish-counties-bristle-at-shaming-over-immigration-holds/ Since local law enforcement began refusing to honor ICE holds, not a single warrant has been filed in the jurisdictions discussed in the article.