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In Depth – Rochester Law Enforcement and Illegal Immigrants

There has been some discussion among various groups in Rochester about the possibility of pursuing so-called “sanctuary city” status, and a number of local religious communities have recently voted to offer, or at least support, sanctuary services to undocumented persons at risk of deportation. That prompted an in-depth discussion with Olmsted County Sheriff Kevin Torgerson about how local law enforcement agencies handle investigations and interactions with people living and working in the community without any legal status to be in the U.S.

Sheriff Torgerson, who appears the second Monday each month as a guest on KROC-AM’s Rochester Today Show (11 a.m.-12 noon), highlighted the complexity of the issue by explaining not all undocumented persons can be considered criminal offenders.

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Sheriff Torgerson says his deputies, along with Rochester Police Officers, are instructed not to question a person about their legal status in the U.S. Instead, they are trained to deal with ending criminal activity, arresting offenders and providing assistance to victims regardless of their status.

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Most of the discussion dealt with operations in the Olmsted County Jail after an undocumented person is arrested as a criminal suspect. Sheriff Torgerson says court decisions have made it clear that local law enforcement agencies cannot delay the release of an individual who has posted bail or completed their sentence, even if it’s requested by federal immigration officials.

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While the Sheriff’s Department is not legally allowed to meet requests from ICE to hold onto undocumented persons, Sheriff Torgerson says current policy requires that ICE is notified when any foreign-born person is booked into the jail.

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