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Santa Barbara County authorities release details about assisting ICE with inmates

Posted at 7:33 AM, Sep 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-17 10:33:15-04

A hearing scheduled for Tuesday during the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors meeting in Santa Maria will give the community a chance to weigh in on the cooperation between federal immigration agents and local law enforcement.

A California law called the Truth Act limits the relationship between local law enforcement and the federal immigration enforcement known as ICE. When they do cooperate, local jurisdictions must inform the public with a forum like the one scheduled for Tuesday morning.

"It's been the policy of local law enforcement to enforce the existing law but not to become deputized as local immigration officers," Mike Latner, a Cal Poly political science professor and political analyst, said.

Latner said California law limiting cooperation between local law enforcement and ICE is under pressure by the Trump administration's focus on deporting undocumented immigrants.

"(It) makes this a messy policy area," Latner said.

In its newest report, which will be presented at the Tuesday meeting, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office says it received 414 requests from ICE in 2018, a 20 percent decrease from 2017. The number of ICE pickups, was down 70 percent over that same time, from 351 to 98.

But Abe Melendrez of Santa Maria immigrant advocacy group, CAUSE, said any cooperation between the two agencies is too much.

"Immigrant communities feel that if they were to report a crime or call police for assistance, there's a lot of fear that they too will be affected by deportation policies," Melendrez said.

Latner agrees with the assessment from Melendrez.

"You don't want people not reporting crimes, you don't want there to be a situation where we are driving people further back into the shadows," Latner said.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Lt. Erik Raney said Monday that the sheriff's office does not alert ICE of undocumented immigrants, it only answers calls from the agency.

According to Raney, only inmates with certain higher levels offenses are reportable to ICE and Raney said his department policy follows the state law.

But Melendrez argues that the department now shares online the names of inmates in custody, something it didn't do before the Truth Act took effect.

"They're really doing all they can to continue collaborating with ICE," Melendrez said.

Raney said that online information was being developed before laws limiting cooperation with ice took effect.

The meeting is set for 9 a.m. Tuesday in Santa Maria.