No, North Dakota Is Not A Sanctuary State For Illegal Immigrants

People have been blowing up my email inbox and social media accounts since last night with links to this Bretibart article, which in turn links to this map compiled by the Center for Immigration Studies, which tags North Dakota as a “sanctuary state” for illegal immigrants.

Obviously sanctuary policies are much in the news of late given the recent tragic murder in San Francisco and the politics around it instigated by Presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Different jurisdictions use different means to protect illegal aliens from lawful deportation. North Dakota is perhaps the most extreme,” Breitbart author Katie McHugh wrote. “State penitentiary policy forbids the state from honoring any ICE detainer, meaning that should local officers detain a suspected immigrant murderer or rapist, they will not cooperate with immigration officials, making deportation well nigh impossible.”

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]”It’s absolutely false,” she told me. “We’re releasing one today to a ICE detainer. We have a really good working relationship with ICE and we routinely release prisoners to ICE detainers.”[/mks_pullquote]

But there’s a problem. The map from CIS doesn’t accurately describe North Dakota’s policies, nor does the Breitbart article.

I spoke with North Dakota Department of Corrections Director Leann Bertsch this morning and she expressed surprise that North Dakota was tagged on the map. Part of her surprise stemmed from the fact that they were actually releasing an illegal immigrant to ICE when I called her.

“It’s absolutely false,” she told me. “We’re releasing one today to a ICE detainer. We have a really good working relationship with ICE and we routinely release prisoners to ICE detainers.”

I asked how the CIS and Breitbart might have come to tag North Dakota as a sanctuary state. “I don’t know where they get that from,” she said. “We don’t have a policy like that. The Department of Corrections routinely honors ICE detainers.”

Bertsch was not contacted by CIS or Breitbart about the article.

The other facility listed on the map in addition to the State Penitentiary was the South West Multiple County Correctional Center in Dickinson. Bertsch said she couldn’t speak for that facility’s policies. I have reached out to the director of that facility, Doris Songer, and will update this post when I hear back.

UPDATE: I spoke with Songer about the CIS map and the Breitbart article.

“Well that’s not true,” she told me of the claim that her facility doesn’t honor ICE detainers. “If ICE puts a detainer hold on them we contact ICE and it’s up to them. They make the decision what they’re going to do. They will either come and get them – usually that’s what they do – or they’ll make the decision to release them. Or they’ll send us a form if they want them held indefinitely.”

“Sometimes they release them,” she added, “but they make that call.”

“The only problem we’ve ever had with ICE is on payment,” she pointed out. “Sometimes they don’t want to pay for the people we house.”

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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