85°F
weather icon Clear

ICE pickups at Clark County jail increase, but no one is saying why

Updated February 24, 2017 - 6:00 pm

U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement agents rarely appeared at the Clark County Detention Center to pick up inmates subject to deportation before this year. Now they’re at the Las Vegas jail almost every day.

Officials with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, which operates the jail for Clark County, say they aren’t sure that the quickened pace of transfers of undocumented inmates to the custody of federal immigration agents is the result of President Donald Trump’s new immigration policies.

They, like the undocumented immigrant community and their advocates, are waiting for some clear signs of how those policies will be put into practice.

“I’m still waiting to see what this new order is looking like from the president,” Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told the Review-Journal on Wednesday, referring to an executive order broadening the number of undocumented immigrants subject to removal from the country.

Metro tries to walk a fine line on enforcement of U.S. immigration laws. It cooperates with federal authorities to remove dangerous criminals and keep federal funds and grants flowing to the department. But at the same time, officials fear alienating the Hispanic and other immigrant communities by handing over established residents for possible removal from the country over minor crimes.

Lombardo said deportation can help the department fight crime, but it should be used only against “the worst of the worst.”

“When you start dipping down to people that committed a traffic infraction, and because they’re foreign-born you make the decision to remove them, I think it’s ridiculous as far as resources and the ability to even do that,” he said.

A DELICATE DANCE

The department’s delicate dance is likely to grow more difficult as the Trump administration moves to implement the president’s executive orders on immigration, which include a threat to withhold federal funds from so-called “sanctuary” cities and counties.

Officer Laura Meltzer, a spokeswoman for Metro, said the department has always notified federal authorities when an undocumented immigrant has been booked into the county jail, unlike some “sanctuary” cities and counties that have ordinances that prevent local police from communicating that information to immigration agents.

But that cooperation has its limits. In 2014, Metro joined hundreds of cities and counties that stopped cooperating with immigration “detainers” — requests for local authorities to hold potentially deportable inmates for up to 48 hours, sometimes beyond the legal “probable cause” holding period. The move by Metro and other localities came after a federal court ruling that an Oregon county had violated a woman’s Fourth Amendment rights by holding her in jail without cause past her release date.

After the policy change ordered by former Sheriff Doug Gillespie, the department released many immigrants subject to the detainers because ICE agents did not show up in time to collect them. That policy, and the infrequent appearances of the feds, continued under Lombardo’s watch.

In early January, Metro shifted gears and began starting the 48-hour detainer clock after notifying ICE at booking when a person was identified as a potential immigration violator, Meltzer said. That means the detainer period to a large extent overlaps with the probable cause detention, she said.

Something changed at ICE about the same time, Lombardo said. ICE agents grew more responsive and began showing up at the jail about 12 hours after being notified, he said.

‘MORE EFFICIENT’ TRANSFERS

Lori Haley, a spokeswoman for ICE, did not attribute the changes to Trump’s policies, but said that the agency “recently instituted changes designed to make the process of transferring detainees from LVMPD custody to ICE more efficient, including expanding the number of transportation runs offered to complete those custody transfers.”

The Justice Department took notice of the limits on Metro’s detainer cooperation last year. In a little-noticed memorandum issued in May 2016, the department’s inspector general examined 10 local jurisdictions – including Clark County – all of which had been identified by ICE as having “policies that limit or restrict cooperation” with the agency and having “declined detainers.”

In a subsequent advisory, the department’s Office of Justice Programs said law enforcement agencies must certify compliance with an information sharing statute in order to continue receiving funds from two DOJ programs. The statute requires local jurisdictions to exchange information about a person’s citizenship or immigration status with federal immigration officers.

Clark County spokesman Erik Pappa said in an email that the county had been in contact with the department “to demonstrate and document compliance” with the law, and, as a result, “does not foresee a loss of DOJ funding.”

The DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs did not respond to a request for comment from the Review-Journal.

Nor is it clear what federal funding could be withheld if the Trump administration decides Metro is not in compliance with its immigration directives.

Some DOJ funding the department receives comes through the county, for example, and Trump’s executive order specifies that funding to law enforcement agencies from DHS also could be withheld.

Rich Hoggan, Metro’s chief financial officer, said the two programs specified in the DOJ memo – the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) and Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) – provide “a very small portion” of the department’s overall budget of $652 million this year.

‘THERE’S NO DETAILS’

But a lot remains unclear about the president’s directives, he said, and it’s possible additional grants and other federal funds could be at risk that could total $8 million to $9 million. Those funds go toward a number of programs, including purchasing mobile crime cameras and combatting human trafficking, violence against women and the reduction of DNA backlog cases, he said.

“The devil’s in the details, and there’s no details,” he said.

As the department awaits clarification and broader guidance on its current policies from the Trump administration, Lombardo said the department will continue what Meltzer described as “a balancing act.”

Meltzer stressed that the department’s involvement in enforcing immigration law is strictly jail-based and that officers do not ask about immigration status otherwise. The worst outcome of the new enforcement effort, she said, would be if it prompted people to stop talking to the police.

“We deal with crime,” she said. “You need cooperation from the public.”

Contact Wesley Juhl at wjuhl@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0391. Follow @WesJuhl on Twitter. Contact Lucy Hood at lhood@reviewjournal.com or 702 387-2904. Follow @lucyahood on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
The Right Take: Biden's Racially Questionable Comments
Joe Biden has uttered racially charged statements for years. Now that he’s the frontrunner for the Democrat presidential nomination, he may finally face prolonged scrutiny for them.
Christopher Rufo Discusses Homelessness In The USA - VIDEO
Christopher Rufo discusses homelessness in the United States and how politicians can work to improve conditions for those with drug addictions.
Clark County 2019 Election Results - Video
The 2019 Elections wrap up in Clark County including an upset in the Boulder City Mayor race.
Olivia Diaz talks about her win in Ward 3 - VIDEO
Las Vegas City Councilwoman-elect Olivia Diaz talks about her election win in Ward 3 and what lies ahead for her.
Greene discusses Read by 3 and Opportunity Scholarships - VIDEO
The Nevada Legislative Session is over and the results are mixed for Nevada students, according to Tom Greene, Senior regional legislative director, Excel in Ed in Action.
Bernie Sanders visits Las Vegas
Sen. Bernie Sanders made a stop at Roy W. Martin middle school on Thursday, during his campaign trail.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Las Vegas
Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris castigated President Donald Trump’s merit-based immigration plan, saying it was “short-sighted” and overlooked the cultural significance of family, during a campaign stop in Las Vegas. “We cannot allow people to start parsing and pointing fingers and creating hierarchies among immigrants,” Harris told Asian Pacific Islander leaders at a Chinatown restaurant, one of two appearances she made Thursday.
The Right Take New Education Funding Plan - VIDEO
On Monday, Senate Education Committee chair Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, released a new education funding formula. For years, many Democrat politicians have criticized the current education funding formula, called the Nevada Plan. They claim it’s old and outdated. Their biggest beef is that it doesn’t allocate more money for students who are English Language Learners or live in poverty. The theory is that it’s harder to educate those students and so they need additional services, which costs additional money.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Nevada
California Senator Kamala Harris meets with One APIA Nevada, a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies empowering Asian Pacific Islander Nevadans. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ben Carson talks housing (Audio only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Ben Carson visits the RJ (Full Audio Only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in Nevada
After campaigning at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 16 in Henderson, former Vice President Joe Biden spoke with the Review-Journal.
Student serenades Mayor Carolyn Goodman at swearing in
Students from the school she founded, The Meadows School, serenaded Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman during a swearing in ceremony for her third and final term. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Al Gore Speaks At UNLV About Climate Change - Video
Former Vice President of the United States Al Gore talks to an audience at UNLV about the effects of Climate change and how to switch to renewable sources of energy.
Forum on Wages and Working People Highlights - VIDEO
Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, and John Hickenlooper speak in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Nevada Politics Today Valerie Weber - VIDEO
Valerie Weber sits down with Victor Joecks to discuss her policies and why she is running for Ward 2 of the Las Vegas City Council.
Cory Booker speaks at UNLV
US Senator Cory Booker speaks at UNLV during a Young Democrats meet and greet on Thursday, April 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
May-Brown describes why some with disabilities need the subminimum wage - VIDEO
Eliminating the subminimum wage will end training and work opportunities for some members of the disabled community. Instead of doing something productive, they would be relegated to adult day care. That’s according to Tracy May-Brown, Opportunity Village’s director of advocacy, board and government relations.
Commission’s decision will delay Red Rock Canyon development
The Clark County Commission Wednesday rejected a developer’s request to approve a preliminary plan for 3,000 homes overlooking Red Rock Canyon before a federal agency grants permission for a roadway leading to the site.
Clark County commissioner calls on landlords to bring properties up to code
Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom has called on landlords in older parts of the valley to bring their properties up to code and keep them well-maintained or face the prospect of inspections, fines and citations. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Harry Reid speaks out against anti-Semitism
Unnerved by the rise in anti-Semitic hate speech and the general pervasiveness of bigotry, including in Nevada, former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid organized an educational forum at UNLV on Thursday as part of his call to unite people against it. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
President Trump speaks to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas
President Donald Trump spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas and updated on Israeli relations. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trump says border wall will have 'hundreds of miles' built by end of next year
President Donald Trump spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas and discussed the progress of the border wall and the current relations there. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Protesters disrupt Trump's speech
Just as President Donald Trump started to make his opening remarks during his appearance at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting, protesters disrupted his speech. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Roerink On The Problems With Taking Water From Eastern Nevada - Video
The Southern Nevada Water Authority wants to take billions of gallons of water that doesn’t exist from Eastern Nevada via a pipeline that would cost ratepayers $15 billion. Doing so would devastate the wildlife and people who live there. That’s according to Kyle Roerink, executive director of the Great Basin Water Network, which opposes the pipeline.
Las Vegas Election Night Wrap-Up
The Review-Journal's Politics and Government Editor, Steve Sebelius, wraps up election night. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Olivia Diaz Speaks To Ward 3 Supporters After Primary Election - Video
Olivia Diaz speaks to her supporters at a election party after results started coming in for the Ward 3 primaries.
Oscar Goodman Speaks On Behalf Of Mayor At Primary Win (edited)
Oscar Goodman spoke Tuesday night on behalf of his wife, Carolyn, who won the mayoral primary election. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Oscar Goodman Speaks On Behalf Of Mayor At Primary Win (Full)
Oscar Goodman spoke Tuesday night on behalf of his wife Carolyn, who won the mayoral primary election. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Gun Debate Shows Limits Of Government - Video
On Monday, the Assembly and Senate Judiciary Committees held a joint hearing on Assembly Bill 291. It would ban bump stocks and allow local governments to pass additional restrictions on firearms.
Lucy Flores speaks out about Biden incident
Former Nevada assemblywoman, Lucy Flores, expresses her feelings about an incident with former Vice President Joe Biden in 2014. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Harry Reid takes the stand in injury lawsuit
Former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid took the stand on Thursday in the product liability lawsuit brought against the makers of a resistance exercise band that Reid blames for blinding him in one eye.
THE LATEST
1 hurt in central Las Vegas shooting, police say

Police are investigating after someone was shot while walking near a central Las Vegas Valley intersection. Two men walked up and fired, and they escaped in a red, four-door sedan.