October 1, 2015

The announcement follows several random homicides involving Mexican nationals in Southern and Northern California

Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff announced Thursday his department will renew efforts to coordinate with federal immigration officials to prevent the unchecked release of foreign nationals with criminal backgrounds from county jails.

According to sheriff’s Lt. David Teets, the agency was recently approached by U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement about participating in the Department of Homeland Security’s “Priority Enforcement Program” under which there will be steps taken to prevent foreigners who may pose a threat to public safety from returning to the streets.

The announcement follows several random homicides involving Mexican nationals in Southern and Northern California.

There are two components of the program -- notification of pending release and lengthening of detention prior to release, Teets said.

Sheriff’s correctional deputies will be actively involved in the former.

According to Teets, PEP bears all the hallmarks of ICE’s Secure Communities Program, which the Obama administration all but deactivated in May 2014.

The Secure Communities Program called on local law enforcement agencies to honor ICE “detainers” on foreign nationals, allowing federal authorities to take custody of them prior to their release from jail to be processed for possible deportation.

The program was heavily criticized by migrants’ rights groups and fell into limbo in California following the October 2013 signing by Gov. Jerry Brown of the so-called “Trust Act,” Assembly Bill 4, which limited the extent to which law enforcement agencies could cooperate with ICE agents.

The act prohibited honoring federal detainer requests, specifically for foreigners arrested or suspected of minor offenses.

Under state law, if a person is not charged with a crime within 48 hours of his or her being arrested -- excluding weekends and holidays -- that individual is entitled to be released from custody based on constitutionally established speedy adjudication guarantees.

PEP seeks to reinstate an additional 48-hour hold on individuals who have not been charged or have completed their jail terms. Sniff and his staff decided against opting into that part of the program, Teets said, apparently based on the advise of legal counsel.

However, correctional officials will notify ICE agents when a foreigner is set to be released from one of the county’s five detention facilities.

According to Teets, the goal is to prevent freeing individuals with “significant criminal” offenses on their rap sheet.

The notification program will require modifying sheriff’s policies, and there was no mention of an implementation date.