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Cooperation with ICE Looms over Hennepin County's Sheriff Race

ICE looms over Hennepin sheriff’s race.

The Appeal: Political Report previews the sheriff election in Hennepin County, Minnesota.

Daniel Nichanian

Sheriff Rich Stanek of Hennepin County (home of Minneapolis) has drawn protests over his cooperation with ICE. His relationship with the federal agency now looms large over his reelection bid.

Stanek’s office asks the people it books their birthplace; if they were born outside the United States, he sends their information and fingerprints to an agency that shares them with ICE. Stanek also arranges calls between ICE and foreign-born detainees, reportedly without telling them of their right to refuse. Local officials have criticized these practices, and the county commission recently approved a plan to better inform immigrants of their rights and provide them legal representation. Stanek’s detention policies have also drawn attention: He informs ICE before releasing certain immigrants. Although he doesn’t honor ICE detainer requests out of concern that they are illegal under current law, he has worked with the Trump administration on new plans to facilitate the transfer of undocumented immigrants into ICE’s hands. “We want to find a way to say yes,” he said in 2017 of ICE detainer requests.

Stanek is a Republican sheriff in a Democratic-voting county, a dynamic facilitated by the fact that Minnesota lists no party affiliation in sheriff’s races. Stanek and two Democratic challengers, David Hutchinson and Joseph Banks, ran on a single ballot on August 14. Stanek and Hutchinson grabbed the top two spots, and moved on to a November runoff.

In challenging Stanek, Hutchinson has used immigration to spark partisan fault lines. “You will notice the difference between a Republican sheriff and a Democratic sheriff, a sheriff who stands with ICE and a sheriff who stands with immigrants,” he said in May. Hutchinson has committed to not asking people their birthplace or immigration status. Banks also wishes to shift immigration policy, committing to “find better ways to serve, inform, and uplift undocumented immigrants.”

Update: Hutchinson defeated Stanek in the Nov. 6, 2018 general election.