ICE searched restricted King County jail records despite ban

Despite a King County law that barred the sharing of non-public jail records with federal immigration authorities, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents continued to access a database that included inmate information not available to the public, including photos and addresses.

The King County Auditor’s Office released a report on Tuesday that showed that the county Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention and King County Sheriff’s Office failed to restrict access to non-public information to ICE authorities, despite a 2018 county code that banned the federal agency’s access to those databases without a criminal judicial warrant. Another county policy barred employees from spending time or resources facilitating civil immigration enforcement, except where required by law.

The audit of the database’s logs showed that 15 employees with the ICE Detention and Removal Unit accessed the information more than 1,000 times between March 2018 and April 2019.

Additionally, the auditor’s office found that the county’s Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention collected citizenship information, in violation of county policy.

The county auditors recommended the development of a privacy program and additional training.

In official responses to the audit, King County Executive Dow Constantine and the King County Sheriff’s Office both noted that after receiving the findings, the county deactivated the ICE accounts that could access the database, and that the county would step up its training and monitoring of the programs.

In 2017 and 2018, in response to President Donald Trump’s immigration policies King County and Seattle leaders pledged to avoid sharing immigration information with federal authorities, putting them at odds with the president. Such policies often are called “sanctuary” policies, though the laws don’t block immigration authorities from enforcement.

A copy of the audit report is available from the King County Auditor’s Office.