2017-04-14 / Local

Bradford County takes action so it will no longer be named a 'sanctuary county'


Staff Writer

WEST BURLINGTON TOWNSHIP — The Bradford County Prison Board on Tuesday took steps that it says will remove Bradford County from an unofficial list of sanctuary cities and counties.

The prison board on Thursday rescinded a policy that had been responsible for Bradford County being placed on the list, which contains over 300 sanctuary cities and counties across the United States.

The list was compiled by the non-profit Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). While the Center for Immigration Studies in a non-governmental organization, the list is used by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and being on the list could “very easily” result in a loss of federal funding to the county, said Doug McLinko, chairman of the Bradford County commissioners.

“We’ve cleaned this up (the problem of Bradford County having been named a sanctuary county),” McLinko said after the Prison Board took action on the matter on Thursday. “We’re good to go.”

The policy that resulted in Bradford County being named a sanctuary county states that the only circumstances under which the Bradford County Correctional Facility would comply with a request from ICE to hold an inmate beyond his or her release date is if ICE presented a warrant signed by a judge for the individual’s arrest or an immigration detainer signed by a judge, said Bradford County jail Warden Donald Stewart. The prison board had adopted the policy in June 2014.

ICE wants the county to honor all immigration detainers, even ones signed not by a judge but by ICE field officers, Stewart said.

An immigration detainer is a request to hold an individual beyond his or her release date because he or she is suspected of being in the country illegally.

In response to ICE’s wishes, the prison board voted 5-1 on Thursday to rescind the policy that it had adopted in June 2014 and to reinstitute its policy on detainers that had been in place prior to June 2014. Before 2014, the jail had a written policy that it honors detainers and it “accepted all detainers,” Stewart said.

The Bradford County commissioners stress that Bradford County is not a “real” sanctuary county, where illegal aliens can live without being picked up for being in the United States illegally.

The reason why the Prison Board in June 2014 adopted the more restrictive policy on complying with ICE immigration detainers is that at the time the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania recommended that counties adopt the policy, according to the Prison Board.

CCAP recommended the policy in response to a federal court case that was filed by Ernesto Gallarza, a New Jersey-born Allentown resident, who was arrested in a drug raid in 2008 at a construction site where he worked and was taken to the Lehigh County jail.

The day after Gallarza was arrested, an ICE agent filed an immigration detainer against him, asking the jail to hold him while ICE investigated his citizenship and immigration status.

Gallarza posted $15,000 bail, but was held an extra three days on the detainer, which was not signed or ordered by a judge. Gallarza was finally released when an ICE agent confirmed that he was a U.S. citizen.

A panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in March 2014 that the Lehigh County jail was wrong to hold Gallarza, finding that local law enforcement agencies have no obligation to comply with federal immigration detainers filed by ICE agents. Requiring them to do so would violate the constitutional protection of states’ rights, the panel said in a 2-1 decision.

Gallarza was acquitted of the drug charges in April 2010. He won a $95,000 settlement in the case.

After Gallarza won his settlement, the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) recommended that counties make their jails’ policies comply with the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in the Gallarza case, in order to shield themselves from liability.

Bradford County Commissioner Ed Bustin, who cast the dissenting vote, said the decision to throw out the policy that the prison board adopted in June 2014 is “dangerous” and “opens us up to civil liability.”

Due process requires that only a judge can order someone held in jail, not an ICE agent, Bustin said.

“I feel like we are sacrificing some principles to get the sanctuary county designation taken away, when it didn’t apply to us in the first place,” Bustin said.

McLinko said the county is not really opening itself up to liability, because the Gallarza case was unusual.

“It happened once, in Lehigh County,” McLinko said.

James Loewenstein can be contacted at (570) 265-2151 ext. 1633; or email: jloewenstein@thedailyreview.com.

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