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Santa Barbara County leaders issue report on ICE’s access to jail inmates

Posted at 5:53 PM, Dec 04, 2018

Santa Barbara County Board Supervisors held a meeting on Tuesday to hear a report about how much access U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has to inmates inside the county jail.

Santa Barbara County doesn’t conduct any immigration enforcement directly, but they do cooperate with ICE officials. Everyone that is booked into jail has their fingerprints taken and the federal government has access to that. After the California Values Act went into place, ICE gained less access to county jails.

“What it’s ultimately resulting in is fewer people ICE is responding to pick up upon their release from jail because they are changing their methods of operation and doing more field operations now than they used to,” said Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown.

According to staff reports, over 15,000 Santa Barbara County Jail inmates left custody in 2017. Of those, about 350 inmates were picked up by ICE, which is about two percent of inmates released.

Many residents attended the meeting to ask county leaders to eliminate the relationship between local governments and ICE. Speakers requested that county jails do not give access to the release dates of any inmates.

“What we’re advocating is to keep our local law enforcement and sheriff’s office separate from ICE, that they are not collaborating so that families feel safe reaching out when there’s any kind of crime, if there’s domestic violence, so the families feel safe to report that to local authorities rather than be afraid of it because of legal status,” said Abraham Melendrez.

Sheriff Brown says there are certain documents that they are required by law to allow public access.

“Nobody wants everybody here in this country as an immigrant to be removed. We know most people who are here are good, hardworking, honest people,” Brown said. “But the reality is there is a percentage, a small percentage, that come here and prey on other people. All too often, that’s on other members of the immigrant community.”

The presentation lists current charges and past convictions of 14 inmates who were reported to ICE. Some of those charges include lewd acts on a child under 14, assault with a deadly weapon, failure to register as a sex offender, and corporal injury to a spouse.

One inmate was arrested as many as 52 times. There were only two on the list that had only been arrested once.

Santa Maria has a larger ICE presence than other communities because it has a facility in Santa Maria.

The community forum is an annual requirement by law with 30 days notice to the public.