By Adam Strunk
Newly elected President Donald Trump has been signing a flurry of executive orders recently, and one order could remove federal funding for Harvey County.
Trump signed an executive order this week, directing the federal government to block non-law-enforcement-related federal funding from “sanctuary” jurisdictions, or communities with law enforcement policies that make immigration enforcement difficult.
Harvey County has been defined as one of these jurisdictions by a policy group, though no one with the sheriff’s office has any idea why.
“At some point, someone slandered our county, and we’ve had that label ever since,” Captain of the Harvey County Detention Center K.C. Kersenbrock said. “We just can’t get the label off .”
Part of that reason for the confusion stems from the fact that while lawmakers have tried to use the term in legislation, there’s no technical legal definition for what a “sanctuary” community or jurisdiction is.
The term comes from a non-governmental think tank called the Center for Immigration Studies, which touts itself as “low-immigration, pro-immigrant”.
It drafted up a list which it updates of communities, which include cities, counties and states that in its opinion “obstruct immigration enforcement and shield criminals from ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement).”
According to documentation provided on the website, the list was compiled from ICE documents. The cause it gave for Harvey County being on the list was that Harvey County does not honor detainment requests from ICE without a warrant or court order for the people it arrests.
However, according to Kersenbrock, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
He said the office always honors detainers and has been doing so as far back as he can remember in the 1990s.
For reference, he explained the process the county takes when it arrests someone it believes to be an undocumented immigrant. He said all of these individuals are reported to ICE. He said their fingerprints are taken and sent to ICE, which then sends back retained requests to Harvey County if the person has committed a crime or ICE wishes them to be detained.
Kersenbrock said the county then holds the individuals for up to 48 business hours if they have a detainer request, something the requests ask for. He said, to his knowledge, ICE has always picked up people it’s put a request on in 48 hours.
Kersenbrock said the idea that Harvey County doesn’t cooperate with ICE is absolutely false.
That’s the same statement former Harvey County Sheriff T.Walton made in 2015 when he tried to get the county off the list after Kansas Rep. Kevin Yoder tried to remove F.E.M.A. Funding from sanctuary communities in a bill.
Walton went as far as to get Rep. Mike Pompeo, who was later appointed by Trump to head the C.I.A., to put out a statement stating that Harvey County was not a sanctuary county.
“Sheriff Walton and the men and women of the Harvey County Sheriff’s Office are doing great work to … support federal immigration laws,” Pompeo stated. “Harvey County is not a sanctuary county. The real problem is the federal government and the President’s executive orders. The President needs to help local law enforcement by enforcing the laws already on the books.”
The president Pompeo was referring to, at the time, was President Barack Obama.
That statement did little to get the county removed from the list.
Now with the executive order signed, it remains unclear what exactly it would mean for federal funding to Harvey County.
The order would have to be enforced for the funding to go away. And when it’s not clear how the county has broken a rule, it could be difficult for the county to even make improvements to fall into compliance.
“We are not sure where the list came from, or who created it, but that statement could not be further from the truth,” the sheriff’s office stated.