Cox disputes ICE memo, sheriffs call out Trent Staggs for ‘uninformed’ statement

Oct 6, 2023, 9:00 PM

Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs says he will run for the U.S. Senate in 2024. "Right now, Washington is...

Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs poses for a photo in Taylorsville, Utah, on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. Staggs announced Tuesday, May 23, 2023, a bid for Mitt Romney's U.S. Senate seat. (Laura Seitz/The Deseret News via AP)

(Laura Seitz/The Deseret News via AP)

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Sheriffs’ Association accused Riverton Mayor and U.S. Senate candidate Trent Staggs of releasing a “naive and uninformed” statement in response to a federal memo purportedly designating Utah a “sanctuary state” for immigration.

Staggs, who is running for the seat currently held by Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, posted a statement in response to a memo from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement from May 2023.

The internal memo he speaks of was issued by a local official for ICE. The memo appeared to designate Utah as a sanctuary state “due to terminations of intergovernmental service agreements” by several county sheriffs.

He criticized state leaders and claimed, “Over two-thirds of arrested illegal immigrants last fiscal year were released back into our neighborhoods due to lack of cooperation [with ICE] from local authorities.” 

Utah County Sheriff and President of the Utah Sheriffs’ Association Mike Smith flatly disputed the claims. 

“It’s very misleading, very damaging to local law enforcement and leaves out the truth,” he said.

Utah is not a sanctuary state

Immigration Lawyer Carlos Trujillo works closely with immigrants from all walks of life. He explained to KSL that the claims made by Staggs are fundamentally untrue.

“If the local government comes in contact with a person who does not have any status and is deportable, ICE will be let know about this person so they can pick him up and start a procedure of deportation. Utah has that system,” he said. 

Trujillo added that if Utah was a sanctuary state, there wouldn’t be any ‘Federal detainees’ in local prisons. 

“I have current cases, where people, with some state criminal issues, are being held under what is called an ICE hold, because the authorities notified ICE,” Trujillo said. “These people are not to be released until it takes care of them.”

KSL read through the Salt Lake County Jail roster for Friday, Oct. 6, and found at least four people are being held by ICE.

Federal Detainees being held in Salt Lake County (photo credit: Salt Lake County Jail)

State leaders respond to Staggs

Gov. Spencer Cox, Senate President J. Stuart Adams and House Speaker Brad Wilson addressed Stagg’s comments stating “Utah has never been a sanctuary state, nor has any of our cities”.

Shortly after, ICE released a public statement redacting the memo that inspired the explosive claims from Staggs.   

“The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Salt Lake City Field Office maintains open and collaborative efforts with the state of Utah, along with the sheriff’s offices in Cache, Utah and Washington Counties,” an ICE spokesperson told KSL.com. “ICE has rescinded a previous, notional memorandum from May 31, 2023, designating the state as a sanctuary jurisdiction. The state of Utah and ICE are proud to work collaboratively to ensure that we together are keeping communities safe.”

Staggs disappointed in state leaders response

Staggs responded by saying he’s “very disappointed by the name-calling and uncivil dialogue” from the sheriffs. Staggs said it is “unbecoming for such a distinguished organization.”

“Not once did I place blame on the county sheriffs nor am I condoning the ridiculously liberal policies of this Biden Administration that make a mockery of the rule of law,” he said. “My statement was one based on hours of dialogue with ICE and other officials that understand the issue. This was done in my capacity as a mayor and not at all as a political candidate. I reaffirm my ask that our state leaders will back up our county sheriffs to ensure they have the resources and necessary protections they need.”

Smith told KSL that the Utah County Sheriff’s Office terminated an agreement with ICE in 2016 — prior to his tenure — due to strict detainment requirements ICE has in place for local law enforcement partners, including regulations “even down to just really silly things like what type of lotion (detainees) get.” 

Essentially, some counties in Utah do not have the resources to hold ICE detainee’s for long periods of time due to the stringent regulations ICE requires. 

If the prisoners don’t have local charges against them, they are transported to places like Nevada or Colorado who have better resources. 

Sheriff Smith emphasized that they are not released back onto the street. 

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Politics + Government

The TikTok logo is displayed on signage outside TikTok social media app company offices in Culver C...

By Samantha Delouya, CNN

Judge blocks Montana’s TikTok ban from taking effect on January 1

(CNN) — A federal judge on Thursday halted Montana’s TikTok ban, which was set to go into effect at the start of 2024. In a filing, US District Judge Donald Molloy said that despite the state government’s attempt to defend the law, “the current record leaves little doubt that Montana’s legislature and Attorney General were […]

10 hours ago

Republican Rep. George Santos of New York rides an elevator at the US Capitol on November 1, in Was...

Clare Foran and Haley Talbot, CNN

Santos refuses to resign a day ahead of expected expulsion vote

Santos described the effort to expel him as “bullying” and lamented what he described as “chaos” in Congress.

21 hours ago

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks during a news conference following a closed-door...

STEPHEN GROVES Associated Press

Senate Majority Leader Schumer warns antisemitism is on the rise

His remarks during a nearly-45 minute speech on the Senate floor Wednesday come at a sensitive time in the Israel-Hamas war.

1 day ago

Deedee Corradini, the former Salt Lake City mayor, was instrumental in getting the Olympics to Utah...

Amanda Dickson

Dickson: Remembering Deedee Corradini after the Olympics news today

Former Salt Lake City Mayor Deedee Corradini was instrumental in getting the Olympics. She would be ecstatic to see them again.

2 days ago

celeste maloy, the newest member of congress...

Sam Herrera

Celeste Maloy sworn into Congress a week after special election win

Congresswoman Celeste Maloy was sworn in to Congress Tuesday night, but she had already started her work in the days following the special election in Utah.

2 days ago

Image of Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, speaking at UVU in Orem on April 22. Reyes was sued Mond...

Bridger Beal-Cvetko

Lawsuit accuses AG Sean Reyes of intimidating critic of Tim Ballard, OUR

The lawsuit is the fourth complaint against Ballard in recent months and the first time Reyes is named as a defendant.

3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Human hand holding a protest banner stop vaping message over a crowded street background....

Prosperous Utah Communities

Utah’s Battle to Protect Youth from Vaping Epidemic Faces New Threat as Proposed Rule Threatens Progress

Utah's strict standards of nicotine levels in vaping products are at risk, increasing health hazards associated with use. Read more about how you can advocate for a better future for Utah's youth.

Aerial photo of Bear Lake shoreline with canopies and people camped out on the beach...

Visit Bear Lake

Last-Minute Summer Vacation Planning? Check Out Bear Lake!

Bear Lake is the perfect getaway if you are last-minute summer vacation planning. Enjoy activities with your whole family at this iconic lake.

Cox disputes ICE memo, sheriffs call out Trent Staggs for ‘uninformed’ statement