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- 04-10-2012, 08:46 PM #1
Sheriff in crossfire on immigration program
Sheriff in crossfire on immigration program
By JASON HOPPIN - Santa Cruz Sentinelsantacruzsentinel.com
Posted: 04/10/2012 04:53:25 PM PDT
April 11, 2012 12:5 AM GMTUpdated: 04/10/2012 05:03:22 PM PDT
SANTA CRUZ - Santa Cruz County Sheriff-Coroner Phil Wowak on Tuesday found himself caught between an encroaching federal immigration program and resistance from local Latinos who want the county's top law enforcement official to take a strong stand against it.
Appearing before the county Board of Supervisors, Wowak outline his plans to layer his own local reviews into a Department of Homeland Security program known as Secure Communities, which uses local jail bookings to help deport undocumented immigrants. It is aimed at those with a history of violence.
But critics say the program sweeps up nonviolent offenders and even U.S. citizens, and local rights groups say Secure Communities could impact public safety here by making illegal immigrants more reluctant to contact police. They want Wowak to resist the program.
Wowak said he would implement assessments of jailed immigrants, releasing those who have no history of violence and who have no charges pending. But beyond that, Wowak said federal immigration hold requests create the strong likelihood that even nonviolent offenders would flee.
"Look at it from a common sense point of view. Would I, if I had issues with a federal agency, would I come back to clear up a local issue?" Wowak said. "There is an unintended consequence to that that I'm not willing to assume at this time."
Since it was created four years ago, Secure Communities has been expanded to every state. But it has also drawn controversy, sparking rallies and leading some local domestic violence prevention advocates to no longer advise undocumented victims to call police.
The county board heard a report on Wowak's plans Tuesday, but it has no authority over the independently elected sheriff, just as it isn't clear what authority Wowak has to ignore federal detention requests. Instead, the board voted to ask for a report on what the county's options are, including whether it can ignore requests to hold inmates for possible deportation.
"I think it's something we'd have to seriously look at," Board of Supervisors Chair John Leopold said, when asked whether the county would explore viable options to eliminate county participation in the program altogether.
With local jails operating above capacity, Leopold fumed that the federal government asked for the immigration holds without providing any funding, pointing out that FEMA also refused to pay for storm damage from last year's March rainstorms.
Supervisor Greg Caput, who represents most of Watsonville, also said he has concerns about the program. Caput said he wants to convene an upcoming town hall meeting on the program.
The policy change announced by Wowak would result in about 10 percent fewer inmates being detained for possible deportation. They are mostly inmates hauled into jail for public drunkenness, which is not typically charged, Wowak said.
But the move did not ease the concerns of either a local task force convened to look at Secure Communities nor the county's Latino Affairs Commission, both of which strongly disagree with Wowak's position.
More than a dozen local immigrations rights advocates, farmworker advocates, religious leaders and even a marriage counselor urged the board, and Wowak, to resist Secure Communities. Many favor an expected state bill aimed at ensuring only those convicted of a crime are caught in Secure Communities' net.
Laura Segura-Gallardo, executive director of Defensa de Mujeres and who works with domestic violence victims, said she is concerned the program undermines decades of efforts to get victims of domestic violence to come forward.
"Law enforcement is now perceived as an arm of immigration rather than focused on public safety," Segura-Gallardo said. "This will result in a general decrease in public safety."
When asked after the meeting what he would tell illegal immigrants who are afraid to come forward, Wowak said:
"Not reporting crimes to law enforcement will only exacerbate their situation. It can really put people at risk. Our law enforcement agency and no law enforcement agency in Santa Cruz County takes immigration action in the field," Wowak said. "That's what we want everybody to understand, that they're not in danger by reporting crimes to us."
Wowak - who at one point made an off-the-cuff remark about being caught "in the middle" on the issue - also said he would meet with ICE soon to discuss his plans. Asked whether he expected "pushback," Wowak was blunt.
"Yes," he said.
In other business, the county became the second local government to approve an expanded ban on polystyrene products, adding foam toys, coolers and more to an existing ban on foam to-go containers. Capitola recently adopted the law, and Santa Cruz and Scotts Valley are likely to soon follow suit.
"I've researched it and haven't found anywhere else where they've really gone beyond the take-out containers," said Laura Kasa, executive director of Save Our Shores.
The law is not yet in effect, and contains several exceptions. For more information, go to SantaCruzCountyRecycles.org.
The board also votes to support two pending state bills. One would help fund state parks, while another would provide for more transparency in political advertising.
Both resolutions came at the behest of Supervisor Neal Coonerty.
Follow Sentinel reporter Jason Hoppin on Twitter @scnewsdude
Sheriff in crossfire on immigration program - San Jose Mercury NewsNO AMNESTY
DON'T REWARD THE CRIMINAL ACTIONS OF MILLIONS OF ILLEGAL ALIENS
BY GIVING THEM CITIZENSHIP
- 04-11-2012, 07:17 AM #2
Cook Co., IL - Preckwinkle ices ICE proposal
In a letter sent Monday to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton, Preckwinkle labels as "premature" Morton's invitation to set up a "working group" to resolve differences over the county's refusal to hold suspected illegal immigrants after they post bail.
Preckwinkle goes on to say she is willing to meet with Morton to discuss the issue, even as she expresses "strong reservations" about holding people for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, without a warrant after a judge has ordered them to be released.
The County Board president was responding to an earlier Morton letter in which he proposed covering the costs of both putting ICE agents inside the jail and holding people on immigration detainers until his agency can take custody.U.S. Constitution - Article IV, Section 4: GUARANTEES AMERICA FROM INVASION!