Ever since the Trump Administration put Hennepin County's Rich Stanek on its naughty list of sheriffs who aren't doing enough to deport immigrants, Stanek's been trying to prove his loyalty.
The list, which came out in March, bashed Stanek's policy of turning down ICE requests to hold inmates longer than the Constitution allows. Stanek shot back, saying that short of breaking the law himself, he maintains a virtual pipeline of illegal inmates to get picked up by Immigration as soon as they're released from jail.
He does so by having corrections staff ask each their country of birth at booking. Then, the jail might contact ICE, put an inmate on the phone with ICE, and even provide space for ICE agents to meet with inmates. When a foreign-born inmate is about to be released, another courtesy call goes out to Immigration.
Inmates don't have to disclose their country of origin or citizenship status, Stanek has said in the past. Neither do they have to speak with ICE. It's just that no one at the jail needs to tell them that.
It seems the sheriff isn't telling the county commissioners much concerning county cash being spent to help ICE as much as he can.
Commissioner Marion Greene is working on a new policy that would ensure no part of the county's business (human services, probation, and corrections) inadvertently sends citizenship information to ICE. The problem with that effort is the sheriff's office answers to no one but Stanek, and just how much time and money he puts toward assisting Immigration is unclear to begin with.
So Greene enlisted Congressman Keith Ellison's help to find out. Earlier this month, Ellison sent Stanek a formal letter asking for answers.
Ellison wanted to know, in addition to time and money spent: what exact booking questions are asked; how inmates end up in phone conversations or in-person meetings with ICE agents; what notification they're given that these interrogations are not mandatory; and what percentage of inmates receive any legal representation.
The congressman requested a response by Friday. Late that afternoon, Stanek sent an effervescent reply that answered no questions, instead appealing their longtime professional acquaintance as almost-friends.
Stanek's letter went on to define the role of the county jail, asserting that the sheriff's office treats all residents with "compassion, dignity, and respect." The office has been transparent with the public, Stanek wrote, by doing press conferences and jail tours, and publishing a Facebook post back in March "in multiple languages."
He then included a bunch of links to news articles that touch on immigration and the sheriff's office, but do not answer Ellison's questions.
"Hennepin County taxpayers have the right to know how their property tax dollars are being spent, and the Sheriff has not been fully transparent with the public about his use of county resources to do the work of federal ICE agents," said Greene Monday afternoon.
City Pages posed Ellison's questions, again, directly to the sheriff's office. There was no response.