Is Franklin County a sanctuary county? The answer is NO

March 5 – Rumors have been flowing that Franklin County could be a sanctuary county for illegal immigrants. 

Franklin County Commissioner John Flannery insisted, “In no way, shape or form are we a sanctuary county. So the answer is no. We are not a sanctuary county. It’s ridiculous. People should know that. It’s a horrible misclassification.” 

The Center for Immigration Studies has Franklin County listed as a sanctuary county. 

The USCIS is the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services is a branch of the Department of Homeland Security that looks at immigration. 

Flannery said, “If I can just say the reason that this happens at all, people have to understand this has nothing to do with policies the commissioners make. This has nothing to do with our day to day operations. We’re not opening up schools. We’re not inviting anyone to come here. Obviously that would never happen. What has happened here, it all has to do with our jail. It’s related strictly and only to our jail and how we release inmates or those who are arrested.”

The perception of Franklin County possibly being a sanctuary county came from a mistake by ICE listing Franklin County as a sanctuary county because the jail would not hold potential illegal immigrants for ICE to pick up. 

Flannery said, “I believe that was Franklin County, Ohio.” 

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “That was a mistake and ICE admitted it and apologized for labeling our county (that way). The map is by CIS and that one says these cities, counties and states have laws, ordinances, regulations, resolutions, even just resolutions, policies, or practices that obstruct the immigration enforcement and shield criminals from ICE. The one thing that did happen and it’s the same boat that Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Clarion, Dolphin, Delaware, Lehigh, Lycoming, Montgomery, Monterey, Northampton, and Westmoreland is that there was a lawsuit, the whole thing started in 2008, by a completely idiotic set of circumstances where a gentleman with a driver’s license, with a social security number was accused of being an illegal immigrant. This was passed on to ICE and ICE just based on that issued a detainer for him. That was hugely a mistake. I cannot see that being repeated, but that’s why around 2014 to 2017, there were some changes made just saying, ‘hey, if we’re going to go beyond the release date, we need to be 100% sure that there’s a detainer.’”

Flannery said, “So everyone understands, after the release date of this gentleman, ICE called, issued a detainer and they held the gentleman obviously against his will and what was seen or found to be unconstitutional. I know it’s a stretch and I know it doesn’t happen often, but just because you look a little different, we’re going to detain you beyond your release date. So you think that if you get picked up, you get thrown in jail, so you know you’re jaywalking and because you look a little different, you’re scheduled to get out of jail tomorrow, and they come to you and say, no, ICE is coming to pick you up. We’re going to hold you for another three days. Well, that’s unconstitutional, so this guy sued, won $150,000 from the state, county and won that lawsuit. Therefore, what has happened out of this and I need everybody to understand this. We have a great relationship with ICE. I have documented proof of that. ICE loves working with Franklin County. What we had to do was change our policy and this goes back, this wasn’t me, this goes back to 2017, 2008 that we are not going to detain them three days, 72 hours after their release date. But what we do do is we notify ICE as soon as they come in. We allow ICE to have all the information on the individual, including their release date, so they have plenty of time to come pick them up and we still hold them until nine o’clock the next morning for ICE to pick up. With that being said at the end of the day, we’ve never had an issue. Ever.” 

Jansen added, “Let me finish the definition because it’s important to understand this. People might say well, wait a minute, isn’t that what Philadelphia does? No, Philadelphia will not contact ICE. Philadelphia has zero communication, but guess what? According to USCIS as of 2021, there are no cities in Pennsylvania designated as sanctuary cities, not even Philadelphia. They are a welcoming city, which is what Lancaster just did. They made themselves a welcoming city and what does welcoming city mean? They give legal aid and social aid to undocumented people. Philadelphia has no contact with ICE. So that’s the difference but even they are not a sanctuary city according to the USCIS. So please, that idea that Franklin County is a sanctuary county. No it’s not, not according to the Department of Homeland Security.”

Lancaster City recently codified themselves as a welcoming city, just like Philadelphia. 

Flannery said, “So the question becomes how do we get off this list? Because there’s a misconception out there that it means something. It means nothing. We communicate with ICE on a weekly basis, if not daily. People have to understand an organization can come out there and put you on a list. You can deny it all you want, but at the end of the day, it’s somebody accusing you of being something you’re not. And that’s the fact. That’s where we’re at right now.”

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM suggested, “Why did with the traction of a keyboard or two out there, you get everybody into a lather about something and a simple conversation with you and we would have had this solved and you would have had the clarity here instead of spouting off?”

Flannery said, “Well, there are people that work for the best interest of themselves to create, they’re not uniters, they’re dividers and they like to run their mouth.”

Ryan asked, “What good does it do? Here’s the truth. Honestly it makes no sense.” 

Jansen said, “People are getting confused between USCIS which is a branch of the government or CIS, which is a center for immigration status, which is an activist group. They’re not horrible. They just have a certain perspective and there they have a much more stretched definition of what a sanctuary municipality is and people are totally confused between those definitions.”

Flannery assured, “We are doing everything we can to try and get removed from that list. ICE’s list, we’ve all been removed from. Their mistakes have been corrected. But again, with an independent organization that does research to try and get off their list, we’re trying.”