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GUEST OPINION: County should stand with TRUST

  • Sonoma County Corrections Deputy N. Jax scans the fingerprints of an individual brought in at the Sonoma County Main Adult Detention Facility in March 2010. (PD FILE, 2010)

The North Bay Organizing Project has been meeting with Sonoma County supervisors to work out a new policy for dealing with detainers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. A detainer requests that a local jail inform Immigration and Customs Enforcement of the date that a criminal case ends and that the jail hold the person for up to 48 ours, excluding weekends and holidays, for ICE officials to arrive and assume custody. An ICE agent may place a detainer without any showing to any magistrate of probable cause that the person is deportable.

Currently, the Sonoma County jail honors all detainers for any inmate of the jail, regardless of whether charges have been brought or not, sustained or dismissed and regardless of the level of crime charged. The jail does not investigate whether the detainer was issued for a citizen of the United States but assumes that ICE has placed detainers only on non-citizens.

Sheriff Steve Freitas points to a federal regulation that says that the local jail “shall” detain the immigrant for up to the given time and argues that this language creates a mandate and leaves him no choice.

Attorney General Kamala Harris has examined the law and regulations and concluded, to the contrary, that detainers can only be requests. Constitutional law supports her view. It would violate the Fourth Amendment for the jail to hold someone without probable cause that the person has committed a crime or is deportable; and the 14th Amendment to deprive someone of liberty without due process; and the 10th Amendment for the federal government to mandate that states and counties spend their resources to enforce a federal regulation. For these reasons, Santa Clara, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Contra Costa counties have all decided not to enforce all ICE detainers.

Alameda County supervisors broke ranks with their sheriff and voted to express their opposition to enforcing ICE holds.

In 2011, the Sonoma County jail transferred more than 930 individuals to ICE custody, most of them non-violent non-felons. In 2012, the number dropped to about 820, probably due to not arresting drivers for driving infractions if they have the Mexican consulate's “matricula,” recognized as a valid ID.

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