Immigration order leaves Sedgwick County unsure of how to move forward

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Law enforcement agencies across the state are dealing with the president’s executive order on immigration.

It says in part, it’s the policy of the executive branch to empower state and local law enforcement agencies to perform the functions of an immigration officer.

Now, that may sound clear, but, there’s a lot of sections and subsections and.a lot of confusion.

Enough that it sent Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter to the county commission this morning.

During a 30 minute presentation in front of the county commission, Sheriff Easter spelled out how President Donald Trump’s executive order is ultimately going to impact his department.

“The executive order wants to do is give us the opportunity to be able to enforce immigration law, because we can’t do that, that is a federal law only enforced by federal agents,” said Easter.

Essentially, Easter says his deputies would have to be deputized as federal agents.

“That comes with, we’re all going to have to be trained on what exactly immigration law is and my next question is if we’re deputized does that immune us from lawsuits,” said Easter.

It was one of the many questions Easter offered up during his presentation.

He also spoke about the dilemma the executive order poses for his department.

Easter says they can honor the immigration detainer which requires holding an undocumented immigrant for no more than 48 hours.

“That puts us in a situation where I can either honor the detainer and possibly be sued and lose, which is taxpayer even to defend ourselves against it,” said Easter.

Easter says his department contacts ICE when they have an undocumented immigrant in the jail.

However, he says ICE doesn’t consistently show up to take custody of the individual.

With that, he’s concerned that the county is being labeled a sanctuary county.

“We have an executive order that states if you are a sanctuary county, city or state they are going to withhold federal funding, that’s 11 to 12 million dollars.” said Easter.

It is a dilemma county commission chairman Dave Unruh says they’ve have to examine further.

“We need to sit down with our attorney in some sort of a workshop situation where we can talk freely among ourselves and come to a conclusion of what advice we want to give the sheriff,” said Unruh.

Right now, the sheriff says if an undocumented individual is charged with a local crime, that person is booked into jail and held on those charges.

Easter says they also send ICE a notice if an undocumented immigrant is being released from jail.

He says, right now, there are three such individuals in the Sedgwick County Jail.

They are being held because of current, local charges against them.