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ICE Suspends Weekly 'Sanctuary City' Report Over Accuracy Concerns

Immigration and Customs Enforcement is suspending its weekly "sanctuary city" reports after complaints of inaccuracies.
Image: A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent
A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent.LM Otero / AP, file

Immigration and Customs Enforcement is halting release of weekly reports on jurisdictions that do not fully cooperate with the agency’s detainers, citing concerns over accuracy.

ICE spokesperson Sarah Rodriguez said the agency would be examining its "reporting methodologies," adding that releases of the Declined Detainer Outcome Reports, which began in mid-March, would be paused until the analysis was complete.

"ICE remains committed to publishing the most accurate information available regarding declined detainers across the country and continues to analyze and refine its reporting methodologies," Rodriguez said In a statement to NBC News. "The DDOR has already sparked important conversations between ICE and law enforcement agencies across the nation, and the revised report will add to this discussion."

Sheriff's offices around the nation had complained about the reports' accuracy in recent weeks.

Shortly after the release of the first report, a spokesperson for the Travis County, Texas, sheriff said ICE had not accounted for a shift in policy that caused Travis County to reprocess detainer requests on all inmates in their custody.

The ICE report said Travis County had denied 128 requests in a single week, with some requests dating back as far as 2014. The sheriff’s office said it declined an average of 1.8 requests per week.

Others said their cities or counties were listed despite complying with ICE requests to hold immigrants accused or convicted of crimes so that they could be transferred to federal custody.

Hennepin County, Minnesota, Sheriff Rich Stanek said the agency had listed two inmates in its first weekly report that were detained by ICE as soon as they were released from the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Jail.

"If a picture is worth a thousand words, this one is worth two thousand," Stanek said in a statement. "These two instances demonstrate that the Sheriff’s Office cooperated with ICE to the fullest extent of the law. In fact, we call ICE every time we learn that an inmate of interest to them is being released."

The agency’s list of corrections to its first weekly report made no mention Hennepin County.

Related: Syracuse University Researchers Prepping Lawsuit Over ICE Detainee Information

The report's release was mandated by President Donald Trump in a January executive order. Its intent is to pressure so-called sanctuary jurisdictions by highlighting crimes committed by immigrants who are in the country illegally. The Trump administration has threatened to withhold some federal grants to jurisdictions that don't comply.

Critics have called the reports an attempt to shame sanctuary cities and counties into complying with ICE detainers, which local laws may forbid in absence of a warrant. A federal judge in Florida last month ruled that Miami-Dade's policy of holding undocumented immigrants was unconstitutional. But to ICE, the detainers are a public safety issue.

"When criminal aliens are released from local or state custody, they have the opportunity to reoffend," Rodriguez said, adding there were certain dangers associated with apprehensions in an uncontrolled environment. "It is much safer for all involved — the community, law enforcement, and even the criminal alien — if ICE officers take custody in the controlled environment of another law enforcement agency."

The mayors and police chiefs in some cities called "sanctuary cities," like in New York and Los Angeles, have said that police will not act as immigration agents, and immigrants must be free to report crimes and cooperate with police without fear over immigration status.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors said in March that "recent research has shown that communities with so-called 'sanctuary' policies are safer than those without them."