EASTON, Pa. – Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure said Thursday that he expects a legal challenge of his order that requires federal agents to present a warrant before taking undocumented immigrants into custody at the courthouse.
He issued the order Tuesday, one day after an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) seized a man from Guatemala before a court appearance. The order applies to the courthouse and county prison.
"I expect to see litigation from ICE," McClure said before Northampton County Council's meeting Thursday. The county executive, who is also a lawyer, said case law supports the county's position.
McClure said the issue at stake is due process, not immigration.
"If you're going to shackle somebody and cart them away, at least give them a piece of paper" that explains why, McClure said.
"We will cooperate with immigration authorities. The federal government does have the right to enforce its immigration laws, and it should enforce them," McClure said, reiterating that the issue is that a warrant should be shown if somebody is taken into custody.
ICE took 32-year-old Franklin Urrutia-Cordon into custody when he showed up for a driving under the influence hearing. Cordon's lawyer, Joshua Fulmer, said his client pays taxes, is married to a U.S. citizen, and has applied for legal residency in the U.S.
When Councilwoman Tara Zrinski asked how ICE was aware that the suspect would be at the courthouse, McClure said he did not know.
In other business, the council approved a revised contract with McClure Co. (no relation, Lamont McClure said) for mechanical equipment at county buildings that will save the county about $1.5 million over six years. The contract started in 2011.
The council also approved by an 8-0 vote (Councilman John Cusick was absent) an administration plan to set aside $80,000 of the money the county receives from the Wind Creek Casino's table-games revenue to help volunteer fire companies and non-profit emergency organizations. Grants will be limited to $10,000 per project, and may be used for capital costs, vehicle and equipment purchases, and training.
Fire companies and ambulance services across the state, particularly in rural areas, have suffered from a lack of money and volunteers.
"We can ameliorate some of the problems our emergency services have" with the grants, McClure said.
In other business, Council President Ronald Heckman commended Stephen Barron, director of fiscal affairs, and his staff for receiving a certificate for excellence in financial reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association.
The council also approved a symbolic resolution asking Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf to provide more funding for food for poor people.