Sheriff angry that county cited as immigration offender

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The sheriff of Kern County on Thursday became the latest to join a national chorus of law enforcement officials lashing back at a weekly report from federal immigration officials on jurisdictions that aren't cooperating with them.

Sheriff Donny Youngblood said at a news conference that the report is riddled with errors and that he can't believe his conservative, largely agricultural county is counted with Los Angeles and New York among the worst offenders.

"There just seems to be some confusion out of Washington, D.C., on who is cooperating and who is not," Youngblood said. "This has to be resolved. You can't go around putting out fake information."

Several other sheriffs and police chiefs from around the country complained at a meeting in Washington last week about the report and accuracy, but most were from local departments at odds with President Donald Trump over immigration crackdowns, including some that label themselves sanctuary cities for immigrants with questionable legal status.

ICE officials have emphasized that the report is based on the best information available to them.

Youngblood cited the report covering the week ending Feb. 10, which said that Kern County received 65 requests from ICE to hold people who had been arrested until their immigration status could be checked, commonly known as "detainers" in law enforcement. The report puts the county third after LA and New York as jurisdictions that have received the most such requests and routinely refuse to comply with them.

Youngblood says his department only got 25 such requests for the entire month of February.

"Kern County is very conservative," he said. "It would be virtually impossible for us to be third in the country," adding that "we cooperate probably as much as anybody in the state of California with ICE."

Youngblood acknowledged that his department does often reject detainer requests from ICE on constitutional grounds, but that they circumvent that by allowing ICE agents generous access to jails and databases.

"They just come in and deport who they need to deport and do their job and it takes the sheriff out of the equation," Youngblood said.

ICE said in a statement that the report reflects "jurisdictions that have — in the past — publicly expressed unwillingness to fully comply with ICE's detainer requests or have not provided ICE with sufficient time to allow for the safe transfer of a detainee. ICE seeks cooperation from all its law enforcement partners to achieve our mutual goal of protecting public safety."

David Lapan, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, ICE's parent agency, earlier acknowledged errors in the reports and said they would be addressed and corrected as they are identified.

Other conservative jurisdictions have also complained. In Texas, the elected Republican sheriff of conservative Williamson County said last week his jail didn't refuse four recent immigration detainer requests as claimed.

Youngblood, who casts himself as a law-and-order figure and can be seen atop the home page of the sheriff's website on horseback wearing a cowboy hat and jeans, emphasized that misinformation in an area like his "can have a direct impact on elected officials."


Associated Press writers Amy Taxin in Santa Ana, California, and Alicia A. Caldwell in Washington contributed to this story.

(Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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