Washington’s top civil rights enforcers are calling for a meeting with the Clark County sheriff over collegial and possibly illegal emails between jail staff and federal immigration agents.
The emails — the subject of an OPB investigation in July — show jail staff offering up inmates’ birthdates, places of birth and even fingerprints to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. The inmates discussed typically have names of Latino descent.
In a Nov. 15 letter, Assistant Attorney General Emily C. Nelson wrote that her agency is “concerned” about the emails, which seem “tailored” to furthering immigration enforcement despite Washington’s sanctuary laws.
Nelson wrote to Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins about the meeting, “to discuss these potential violations, and strategies to bring your office into compliance.”
In an email, Atkins said his office is “working with the AG’s office to schedule a meeting.” He declined to comment further. When reached for further comment, a spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office said, “our letter speaks for itself.”
According to the letter, a review by the Attorney General’s Office found 311 instances of jail staff sharing protected information, impacting 954 individuals. It’s unclear what date ranges the agency is using.
As OPB reported, the emails led to at least one man’s deportation to Mexico. In that case, court records showed jail staff helped federal agents into a restricted area. One staffer later cheered on ICE agents, writing “Great job! Go get him!” in an email.
In 2019, Washington legislators passed the Keep Washington Working Act, which aimed to curb how often state and local law enforcement would detain a person when the federal immigration agents attempt to apprehend them.
The law also narrowed the ways state and local agencies can share information when the crimes at hand aren’t federal crimes like drug or human trafficking. It prevents agencies from disclosing personal information without a signed warrant from a federal judge.