News

Lebanon Co. axes immigration policy

Written by Daniel Walmer, Lebanon Daily News | May 18, 2017 1:30 PM
Lebanon-County-Prison.jpg

The Lebanon County Correctional Facility does not hold people solely on immigration detainers - although Lebanon County otherwise fully cooperates with immigration authorities. (Photo: File photo)

Change could get county off ICE list of uncooperative places

(Lebanon) -- The Lebanon County Prison Board on Wednesday revoked a policy that caused the county to be listed as uncooperative on immigration enforcement by the Trump administration.

The policy had instructed prison officials to not accept an individual for incarceration solely on a federal immigration detainer, if the person was not facing additional local charges.

County commissioner Bob Phillips said he wanted to show that the county supports the Trump administration's efforts to control illegal immigration.

"We're trying to support the president and the attorney general," Phillips said. "We want to comply with the law."

The revocation of the policy passed by a 5-1 vote of the prison board, which consists of the three county commissioners, controller Robert Mettley, district attorney Dave Arnold and sheriff Bruce Klingler. The motion was made by Arnold and seconded by commissioner Bill Ames.

Read more:Lebanon disputes 'sanctuary county' claim

More:Lebanon County prison on ICE list

Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz, who voted against the change, said she could not find in her records that the prison board had voted to adopt the policy in the first place when it was established in 2008. Therefore, she also would not vote to revoke it.

"Wow," Phillips said after Litz explained her reasoning.

The policy was originally established because of legal liability concerns, county administrator Jamie Wolgemuth previously told the Lebanon Daily News. In 2008, Lehigh County became entangled in a lawsuit after it held a suspect on a federal immigration detainer but federal officials later determined that the suspect actually was born in the United States.

More recently, the county received assurances from its liability insurance provider that alleviated those concerns, Phillips said.

In-depth:Pa. county: Washington 'trying to bully us' on immigration

Immigration and Customs Enforcement began publishing a list of counties that don't fully cooperate with immigration authorities earlier this year. There were 19 Pennsylvania counties, including Lebanon County, listed on the report.

Lebanon County will now seek removal from the ICE list, Phillips said.

The concern about Lebanon County's policy first surfaced in December when the Center for Immigration Studies put the county on a list of "sanctuary" locations, a label Wolgemuth disputed. The county has and will continue to cooperate with immigration authorities, he said.

Lebanon County isn't often faced with the situation the policy had addressed. Wolgemuth previously said Warden Robert Karnes can't remember the last time ICE asked Lebanon County to hold someone on only an immigration detainer.

This article is part of a content-sharing partnership between Lebanon Daily News and WITF. 

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