Lehigh Valley

DA: Northampton County should not be 'safe haven for foreign criminals'

DA: County should not be 'safe haven for foreign criminals'

EASTON, Pa. - Northampton County's district attorney said he doesn't want to see his turf become a sanctuary for illegal immigrants.

John Morganelli is asking local police and prison officials to continue to honor immigration detainers from federal authorities.

"Northampton County Prison should continue, as it has in the past, to honor Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers so that we can make sure that Northampton County does not become a safe haven for foreign criminals," he said.

Morganelli made his position very clear: ICE officials will be contacted if an illegal immigrant is arrested in the area.

"If we're just going to ignore these immigration detainers, we're gonna put the public at risk by allowing these criminals to go back in the communities," explained Morganelli.  "And I am not in favor of that."

The district attorney is asking all 30 police departments in the county, along with prison officials, to honor these federal requests.  

An incident in Lehigh County brought the discussion into the forefront.  An Allentown man who said he was wrongly detained as an illegal immigrant filed a lawsuit against the city and county. A federal appellate court agreed with him, but Morganelli said the ruling just clarified the already-existing policy.

"That ICE detainers are only requests for local law enforcement agencies and not mandatory obligations," Morganelli said.

They are requests that Morganelli hopes will be upheld in Northampton County.

"We are seeing more and more contact at local law enforcement with illegal aliens and we cannot just close our eyes to the fact of their illegal status," Morganelli said.

We reached out to the county executive to see where he stands on this, but we never heard back.

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