No sanctuary from immigration detainers in Worthington: WCCO radio misreported Worthington as safe for undocumented criminals, officials say

WORTHINGTON -- Worthington is not a safe haven for would-be undocumented criminals, city and Worthington Police Department officials said Monday. A press release from Director of Public Safety Troy Appel and City Administrator Steve Robinson spel...

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A map published by the Center for Immigration Studies highlights areas of the United States that have sanctuary laws in place. Red icons indicate cities with sanctuary laws, yellow icons indicate counties and green icons indicate states. Image submitted by the Center for Immigration Studies
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WORTHINGTON -- Worthington is not a safe haven for would-be undocumented criminals, city and Worthington Police Department officials said Monday.

A press release from Director of Public Safety Troy Appel and City Administrator Steve Robinson spells out the city’s position: “Worthington is not now, nor has ever been, a sanctuary city.”

Sanctuary laws have become a hotbed of debate following the July 1 shooting death of Kate Steinele in San Francisco, Calif. Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez has admitted to shooting Steinele in interviews.

Sanchez claims the death was an accident. Sanchez, an undocumented immigrant who has been convicted of seven felonies (according to CNN), had been deported five times prior to the crime.

Due to San Francisco’s sanctuary law, a detainer for Sanchez from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was ignored by local law enforcement, which released Sanchez from jail following the dismissal of drug charges.


In a July 9 article posted by WCCO radio, Worthington was listed as a sanctuary city along with three others in Minnesota. The information, obtained from the Ohio Jobs and Justice PAC, is incorrect, according to Appel and Robinson.

“There is no basis for that story at all. … We do not now, nor have we ever been, a sanctuary city, and we do not have a policy or ordinance related to that,” Appel said. “Worthington being thrown into that -- there’s no basis for that.”

“It’s just the idea that this false information is floating around out there,” Robinson explained. “(We’re) displeased with the idea that a news organization like WCCO would print this without doing the minimum of clarification and due diligence. If he’d (WCCO reporter Edgar Linares) called City Hall or called the police station for a comment, we would have been able to explain to him this is false information.”

Appel clarified his department’s role regarding undocumented immigrants. The Worthington Police Department does not actively pursue undocumented immigrants; the department will not be stopping people on the street to ask about an immigration status, he said.

However, if someone perpetrates a crime and an immigration detainer is in place, it will be honored by area law enforcement. Appel noted that the Nobles County Sheriff’s Office and jail staff work with ICE more so than the police department does.

“We investigate the crimes and deal with the criminals that come up in our investigations,” Appel said.

Robinson concurred.

“It’s not that from a law enforcement standpoint that we’re out searching for people,” Robinson said. “But if they are arrested, and they go through the process, and their immigration status is checked and there is a problem, it’s dealt with according to law.


“The point we want is this was incorrect information and that the city is not a sanctuary city,” he continued. “... Our underlying concern is we don’t want this information out there and people thinking they can flock to Worthington, and that we’re not meeting the immigration laws and that we are not going to do anything about it.”

“Our mission is staying the same. … serving Worthington with honor and integrity by working with the community to provide exceptional public safety and we maintain that in all aspects of our job,” Appel concluded.

Robinson said attempts to reach Linares and the WCCO news department requesting a retraction have gone unanswered.


What is an immigration detainer?

The Immigration Detainer (Form I-247) is a notice issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) informing a law enforcement agency (LEA) that ICE intends to assume custody of an individual in the LEA’s custody. ICE issues a detainer in three situations:

  • to notify a LEA that it intends to assume custody of an alien in the LEA’s custody once the alien is no longer subject to that LEA’s detention;

  • to request information from an LEA about an alien’s impending release so ICE may assume custody before the alien is released from the LEA’s custody; and

  • to request that the LEA maintain custody of an otherwise releasable alien no longer than 48 to allow ICE time to assume custody.

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