More than 18,000 times over the past two years, local jails across the U.S. failed to hand over deportable immigrants to federal authorities, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement records obtained by the Texas Tribune. The largest number of what the agency calls “declined detainers” was in California — more than 11,000. Only 146 were recorded in Texas, 12th among all states. Detainers are requests from federal immigration authorities for a local jail to hold non-citizen inmates subject to removal, usually booked on crimes unrelated to immigration, for up to 48 more hours so federal officials can take them into custody. In 2014, the agency began targeting requests at cases involving serious criminal offenders.
The new policy was implemented by July 2015, and more law enforcement agencies are now cooperating, said spokeswoman Jennifer Elzea. Almost 60 percent of the total declined detainers came from jurisdictions in California, followed by New York, Colorado and Florida. California adopted strict “sanctuary city” policies limiting collaboration between local law enforcement and the federal government on immigration enforcement. The issue prompted national outrage when an undocumented immigrant for whom the agency had issued a detainer that was declined by San Francisco County despite his long criminal history shot and killed innocent bystander Kate Steinle after he got out of jail last July.