Though the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors voted to dissolve that sheriff’s department contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold immigrants at county facilities in July, details about the extent of that relationship emerged Monday.
The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department held 1,303 immigrants at county facilities last year as part of a contract with the U.S. Immigration and Customs, also known as ICE. About 83 percent of those detainees were Hispanic, according to demographic data presented by Sheriff Scott Jones. Over the course of 2017, ICE conducted 51 interviews at county facilities, constituting about 2 percent of all law enforcement interviews conducted.
While the Board of Supervisors forum held Monday was mandated by the recently updated TRUTH Act, much of the public comment honed in on what relationship the sheriff’s department and ICE officials maintain. Much concern focused around the California’s so-called “sanctuary state” law, Senate Bill 54, passed this year and prohibits local and state law enforcement sharing data or assisting immigration enforcement agents, except in cases of serious or violent crimes.
Jones told the board that since the TRUST Act took effect in 2014, should an ICE agent file a 48-hour detainer through the sheriff’s department asking an inmate remain in custody even if they made bail or had their legal challenge dropped, the sheriff’s department would not fulfill that request.
“We allow them to file detainers on folks (but) it has no legal effect. We immediately dismiss it in terms of holding them in custody,” Jones told the board. “If (an inmate) got a detainer, bailed out an hour later, they’re getting out. They’re not going to be held for any one second longer than their local charges would allow.”
Jones repeatedly emphasized that no “coordinated” activities occur with ICE. But when Supervisor Phil Serna asked Jones how ICE would be tipped off in the first place to request a detainer, Jones responded “ICE has access to our facility, they’re in our facility regularly and they have access to our databases.”
“We don’t give people heads up, we don’t give them calls, ‘Hey you might want to look at this person,’ ” he continued. “It’s entirely their own operation utilizing the information that we make available to them in the jail.”
That degree of cooperation raised serious concerns about SB 54 compliance among legal experts and civil rights advocates who attended the meeting.
Sean Riordan, an attorney with the ACLU Northern California, said sheriff’s department policies obtained through a California Public Records Act request explicitly outlines that ICE will be notified of immigration warrants, and that a release officer with the sheriff’s department will notify ICE “as soon as possible” about inmates being released that have a canceled ICE detainer and a completed SB 54 verification form on file.
“What I heard Sheriff Jones explaining is ‘We don’t communicate with ICE, we don’t actively cooperate with ICE at any level,’ ” Riodan said. “However I don’t see that reflected in the policies we’ve received (and) it’s not reflected, in simple terms, in the experiences people have had in being transferred from sheriff’s custody to ICE custody.”
It’s unclear how often these communications happened, when they resulted in deportations, and whether the sheriff’s department took steps to ensure those communications complied with SB 54, Riordan said.
“Now more than ever we need accountability, we need transparency and we would like our sheriff as well as our board of supervisors really to release aggregate data on what the situation is with ICE and (its) interaction with the sheriff’s department,” said Rhonda Rios Kavitz, co-founder of Step Up!, an immigrant activist group.
Jones said after the meeting that because the county’s contract with ICE ended in June, detention data at next year’s forum will “look different” than this year’s. He expects to include additional data points in line with the TRUTH Act for 2018 figures.
“It’s no secret, I give ICE unfettered access to our jails and our databases, they can come in one or ten, I don’t know, we don’t track,” Jones said. “There’s answers for all of those questions — they’re not going to be nearly as sexy or as clandestine as some people suspect, quiet frankly.”
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