Santa Barbara County residents weigh in on ICE-sheriff collaboration

Posted at 6:10 PM, Sep 17, 2019

People in Santa Barbara County were able to voice their opinions Tuesday about the cooperation between Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and local law enforcement.

More than a dozen people on both sides of the aisle spoke at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting to share their thoughts on the controversial issue.

A California law known as the Truth Act currently limits the interaction between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities. When the two agencies do collaborate, however, they must hold a public forum.

"One of the things we really want to make sure is that the sheriff is not having any collaboration with ICE so that when an immigrant feels like they need to report a crime or they're a victim of a crime, they feel safe knowing that they can contact the sheriff or police department without immigration being a part of it," said Abraham Melendrez, CAUSE Policy Advocate.

Like Melendrez, some of those in attendance at Tuesday's meeting were concerned about the implications that interactions between local law enforcement and ICE could have on the community.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown presented the board with examples of charges and prior convictions immigrants have faced in the county, enforcing the idea for some that ICE and local law enforcement agencies should work together.

"There are a lot of criminal types that are committing crime and all you have to do is go over and talk to Steve Finn at the ICE building here in Santa Maria and he will show you the statistics," said Richard Dydell, Santa Maria resident .

While the examples presented by Sheriff Brown may have been enough for some, members of the board said they would have liked to have seen actual charges of those who were detained to get a better understanding of the context in which these situations are taking place.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office also outlined the protocol it follows when notifying ICE following an arrest. Only inmates with higher-level offenses are reportable to ICE and according to Sheriff Brown, the closest thing they ask to one's immigration status is where they are from.

"The closest thing that would come to that is their birthplace, that we take when someone is arrested," Brown said. "But we don't ask people if they are documented or undocumented, we book them into our system and it is all through the fingerprint system and process that ICE receives the information."

During public comment, many people also expressed to the board of supervisors that they would like to see future meetings dealing with the immigrant population to be held later in the day so those who are directly affected can attend. Chairman Steve Lavagnino said that would only create a slippery slope for other items the board deals with.