County clarifies ‘sanctuary’

By Brett R. Whitling

CLARION - The Clarion County Prison Board of Inspectors may finally have solved the issue of Clarion County being mistaken for a “sanctuary” county.

“It’s my position that the passage of this policy would make it abundantly clear that Clarion County really never was and clearly at this point is not a sanctuary county,” said Clarion County District Attorney Mark Aaron. “It may take the Internet and social media time to catch up to that realization.”

The board is aware that the original Internet-based map showing Clarion as a sanctuary county will always be available online and won’t go away. The county was originally listed as a sanctuary county due to an ordinance adopted in 2014 stating the county will not hold an illegal immigrant based solely on a request to do so from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The policy was not aimed at allowing illegal immigrants to pass freely through Clarion County but instead aimed at preventing potential lawsuits against the county for illegal detainment. The policy stated the county would not hold anyone on a simple request to do so from ICE due to the liability of holding the inmate.

The newly accepted policy will be an appendix to the original policy. It states, “It shall be in the policy of Clarion County Corrections to fully cooperate with (ICE) permitted by law and outlined in this policy. Clarion County Corrections will notify the Department of Homeland Security as early as (possible) before the alien is released from custody by calling either ICE or U.S. Customs and Border Protection as requested (by DHS)…”

Clarion County Jail Warden Jeff Hornberger said, “We don’t get many illegal immigrants unless they have local charges. On average we get two or three per year.”

If the jail does hold an illegal immigrant, Hornberger said they are usually held for 24 hours before U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service arrives to get them. The inmates are then transported to either York County or Pittsburgh which are approved INS holding facilities.

Aaron said if they do have charges in Clarion, they will stay here until they are cleared and then be transported by INS.