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  1. #1
    Administrator Jean's Avatar
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    May 2006

    CA: District attorney, sheriff criticize Santa Clara County

    District attorney, sheriff criticize Santa Clara County supervisors for new immigration policy

    By Tracy Seipel

    Posted: 10/23/2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
    Updated: 10/23/2011 08:10:55 PM PDT

    When Santa Clara County supervisors decided last week to buck the U.S. government by reducing the county's role in deporting criminals, immigration authorities warned local officials that they were endangering the public.

    But it's not only the feds who are concerned with the 3-1 vote by the board of supervisors. So are some of the county's top law enforcement officials, including District Attorney Jeff Rosen and Sheriff Laurie Smith.

    They say supervisors are playing a potentially dangerous game of chicken with U.S. immigration officials.

    Most alarming, Rosen and Smith say, is that supervisors decided to release illegal immigrants with a history of committing serious or violent crimes into the community if immigration authorities don't pay to detain them. Officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, commonly known as ICE, have balked at that request. So the county now will free those inmates when their sentences are up.

    "The action taken by the board of supervisors does not allow us the latitude to make a decision in the best interest of public safety,'' Smith told this newspaper. "If a person has been convicted of a serious or violent felony, they should remain in jail."

    Similarly, Rosen said he supports honoring immigration holds "on individuals convicted of serious or violent crimes because deporting dangerous criminals promotes public safety.''

    Illegal immigrants with a violent past should be kept in jail even if the feds don't pay for the detention, Rosen said.

    Santa Clara County's new policy is a reaction to the federal Secure Communities program, which the county tried to avoid but was forced to join in May 2010. The program requires local jailers to share with ICE the fingerprints of everyone booked.

    The county's beef with ICE? Because it's not in the business of arresting immigrants suspected of staying in the country illegally, it doesn't want to be linked to those arrests. That's why immigrant rights advocates last week called the county's new policy the most progressive "immigration hold'' policy in the U.S. They particularly support the part of the new policy that shields illegal immigrants arrested for nonviolent crimes and misdemeanors. Under the new policy, those immigrants will be freed before federal agents can grab them.

    Rosen and Smith say they agree with that part of the new policy.

    Detaining illegal immigrants who are minor offenders makes little sense because "it breaks families apart and drives a wedge between law enforcement and immigrant communities, which is bad for all Santa Clara County residents," Rosen said.

    Smith also said that her goal is to detain only those immigrants who pose a threat to the community.

    But Rosen and Smith think supervisors went way too far in asking ICE to reimburse the county to detain illegal immigrants with a serious criminal history for an additional 24 hours after they were set to be released.

    Voting to impose the new policy were Supervisors George Shirakawa Jr., Ken Yeager and Dave Cortese. Mike Wasserman, who has the same concerns as Rosen and Smith, dissented. Supervisor Liz Kniss was absent.

    Before it was amended this month by Shirakawa to include charging the federal government to detain immigrants with serious felony records, Rosen and Smith -- members of the county's Civil Detainers Task Force -- had agreed to the panel's recommendation to continue jailing those immigrants for 24 hours so that ICE could deport them.

    "I agreed with the first policy,'' Rosen said, "but this is a bridge too far.''

    Shirakawa said he changed the original task force proposal after officials in Cook County, Ill., recently told federal authorities they would not detain immigrants unless ICE paid the county for holding them.

    Shirakawa and other Santa Clara County officials say that's only fair, because the cash-strapped county is already paying to do ICE's work by having to house inmates until federal agents can pick them up at the county jail. It costs about $125 daily to house an inmate.

    County officials also say they have to spend money researching inmates' prior convictions -- not only locally, but also nationwide -- and have to place children in the county's dependency system when their parents are put into deportation proceedings.

    Still, neither Shirakawa nor any other county official could say exactly how much money the county believes it will save with the new policy -- which takes effect immediately.

    ICE officials say the agency isn't costing the county much at all because its officers pick up inmates in a timely fashion and do not detain parents who have the sole responsibility for child care. ICE says it allows such parents to remain out of custody while their immigration cases are being adjudicated.

    ICE says the county's new policy is flawed because some immigrants arrested on minor charges also have serious criminal backgrounds. Releasing them to the streets rather than turning them over to federal authorities can result in those people committing more serious crimes, said Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for ICE. "Law enforcement agencies that honor ICE detainers ultimately help protect public safety,'' she said

    But county attorneys argue that the court system already has punished the criminals. "We're not suddenly letting people go before they serve time for their crimes," said Juniper Downs, lead deputy county counsel.

    "ICE has a job to do, and as a county we have a job to do,'' she said. "The board has made a decision that we are not going to volunteer county resources to enforce civil immigration. If ICE is requesting our cooperation and is willing to reimburse us for the costs we incur, then we are willing to cooperate."

    How the county's new policy WILL Work
    Here are three scenarios that show how the new policy -- which takes effect immediately -- will play out:
    *An illegal immigrant is arrested for a misdemeanor. The immigrant is booked into the county jail and, if convicted, serves his or her sentence there. Immigration authorities, who have requested that the county contact them and detain that person for 24 hours before he or she is released, are not contacted. So the immigrant goes free.
    *An illegal immigrant is arrested for a misdemeanor. But the immigrant has previously been convicted of a serious or violent felony and served time in a state prison. Immigration authorities, who have requested that the county contact them and detain that person for 24 hours before his or her release, are not contacted unless federal authorities agree to pay the county to detain the immigrant.
    *An illegal immigrant is arrested for a serious felony. The immigrant is booked into the county jail and, if convicted, sent to state prison. Immigration authorities, who have requested that state prison officials alert them before the prisoner's release, are contacted by the state so the inmate can be deported.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member AmericanTreeFarmer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Santa Clara should be cooperating with ICE by picking up criminals from municipality and county jails and transporting them to ICE. Counties have economies of scale municipalities do not. There should also be a state level immigration police force.

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