Open Letter & Guest Column Commentary from Sheriff Kevin Torgerson: Local Law Enforcement and Immigration Policy 

Monday, June 11, 2018

Recently questions were asked about the relationship between the Olmsted County Sheriff's Office (OCSO) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  When hearing from community members, three questions were frequently asked.  I hope this answers your questions and provides transparency:

  • Is OCSO honoring ICE detainers?  No, because the courts have ruled local detention centers cannot hold persons for ICE for any additional time beyond which they would otherwise be released from custody.  An ICE detainer is a request and not an order issued by a judge.  Thus, the courts have directed local detention facilities to not honor ICE detainers.  Following this decision, OCSO immediately stopped honoring ICE detainers.  See Orellana v. Nobles County 230 F.Supp.3d 934 (D.Minn 2017).
  • How does OCSO communicate with ICE?  OCSO follows the law in all interactions and communications with ICE.  The U.S. Department of State has bilateral agreements with countries that require law enforcement officials to notify consulates if someone from their country is detained in the United States.  Likewise, the US has the same agreements with many countries should a U.S. citizen be detained in a foreign country.  As required by law, OCSO only provides the minimal amount of information to ICE.  OCSO does not hold individuals in-custody for ICE.  OCSO does not actively work with ICE to deport individuals.  OCSO staff does, however, provide referrals and assistance to inmates prior to leaving custody.  
  • Why does OCSO ask origin or place of birth?  Every person arrested and booked into the Adult Detention Center is asked a series of questions, including their origin or place of birth.  These questions are asked to inform housing decisions, comply with federal or other requirements, and reduce concerns of discrimination based on possible racial profiling.  OCSO takes seriously our responsibility to safely and securely house all individuals in-custody.  Again, OCSO is diligent in making sure we follow federal and case laws during all interactions with ICE. 

Last year Commissioner Shelia Kiscaden and I were hearing these same questions.  We brought together Latino Community leaders to clarify victims and witnesses to crimes should never fear Olmsted County law enforcement questioning their documented status.  For over 10 months, we worked to establish communication, trust, and understanding that public safety of all persons in Olmsted County is a shared goal.  No one should be victimized by persons who take advantage of concerns of deportation.

I encourage those who are protesting to look at your own words, “the Sheriff should be working with the community to keep everyone safe.”  For the record: I have spent the last 32 years of my life working alongside the members of the Olmsted County Sheriff’s Office and our communities to make our communities a safe place to live, work, learn, and play.  It is time to end the banter that local law enforcement will turn you in if you talk to us.  If anyone in our community—documented, undocumented, or natural born citizen—is being victimized, you have nothing to fear from your police officers, deputies, or state troopers.  We are here to help you, and most importantly, keep you safe.

I support the immigrant community.  As the county’s chief law enforcement officer, I assure you your local law enforcement wants to build trust and work together for a safer community.  I hope we can lay to rest the legality and validity of how the Olmsted County Sheriff's Office interacts with ICE and there is a better understanding of how we keep our communities safe.