Auditor: King County allowed ICE to access jail information

SEATTLE — A report from the King County Auditor says Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers continued to access an online jail database more than 1,000 times after the county passed a law in February 2018 prohibiting the sharing of personal information with immigration officials without a warrant.

The Seattle Times reports that in doing so, the officers were able to see photos, physical descriptions, addresses and aliases for more than 40,000 bookings into King County jails.

In some cases, the report released Tuesday said jail officials also collected citizenship information.

Jorge Barón, executive director of Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, called the revelations “profoundly disappointing and disturbing.”

After discovering King County’s data disclosures, the auditor in April notified the county’s Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention, which cut off access to ICE within five working days. The sheriff’s office also “immediately changed” its procedures, according to spokesman Sgt. Ryan Abbott.

County Council Chair Rod Dembowski said he was frustrated. “You pass a law. The executive is in charge of implementing it.”

Why that didn’t happen is not clear. County Executive Dow Constantine, in a July 1 letter to King County Auditor Kymber Waltmunson, agreed with her recommendations for training and a concrete plan to protect residents’ privacy, but offered no explanation for the past failure to do so.

“It should be noted we know of no circumstance where federal agents used this data to detain or remove county residents,” he noted.

Dembowski said his understanding is that ICE, along with other law-enforcement agencies, had used the jail database for as long as a decade. After the council passed its ordinance, nobody deactivated the ICE accounts.

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