Major Dawanna Witt, a Democratic candidate for Hennepin County Sheriff, has publicly vowed to continue the county’s lack of cooperation with a federal law enforcement agency.
After independent sheriff candidate Jai Hanson said at last Wednesday’s debate he would work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Witt wrote a statement the following day calling Hanson’s position “imprudent and outdated.”
“This represents one of the many differences between him and me,” Witt said. “I want all residents, regardless of their immigration status, to feel comfortable contacting and cooperating with law enforcement if they are a victim or witness of a crime.”
— Major Dawanna Witt for Hennepin County Sheriff (@wittforsheriff) July 1, 2022
Last September, Hennepin County Sheriff Dave Hutchinson — who won’t seek reelection and is on a leave of absence following a drunk driving accident in December — said the sheriff’s office would no longer cooperate with ICE’s detainer requests.
“With the exception of when ICE has a judicial warrant for a person’s arrest, we no longer talk to ICE. That is all in the past. But, we will allow ICE agents into the jail on request,” Sheriff Hutchinson said.
In her leadership capacity, Major Witt currently oversees the Hennepin County Jail and court system.
She touted the fact that she was the one who “facilitated those conversations about no longer cooperating with ICE.”
“If ICE wants to pick up someone, they do have to have a warrant, a federal warrant signed. So yes, I will continue what I’ve already started,” she said.
At present, ICE does not receive notice from the sheriff’s office that a suspect they’re looking for has been released, nor does the sheriff hold suspects at the request of ICE so they can be taken into federal custody.
Hanson said he would “let the people we take into custody know they don’t need to talk to ICE,” but he plans to work with all federal law enforcement agencies.
“We are in the biggest crimewave of the history of our state and we need all hands on deck,” he said. “We need to work with our federal partners. We’re not going to get this done by ourselves.”
During that same Wednesday debate, Hanson raised concerns about Witt’s residency in Lakeville, a Twin Cities suburb located in Dakota County, not Hennepin County.
“I do own a home in Lakeville,” she later replied. “So kudos to me for my successes and not being a part of an environment in which I was brought up in.”
Candidates are required to maintain residency in the area they seek to represent for just 30 days prior to the general election.
Last February, the city of Minneapolis, located in Hennepin County, announced that it would prioritize police recruits who live in the city in response to the demands of activists.
“Having grown up in Minneapolis, I know first-hand the value of having officers who are familiar with, and deeply invested in, the communities we serve,” former Chief Medaria Arradondo said at the time.