I want to thank Nick Welsh and the Independent for bringing to the community’s attention the previously concealed Probation Department policy of cooperating with the immigration police (ICE, the acronym for Immigration and Customs Enforcement) in deporting juveniles, many of whom were accused of very minor offenses.
As Nick correctly reported, in our initial report we miscalculated the rate at which juveniles admitted to Juvenile Hall were turned over to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) for deportation. The rate is found by dividing the number of juveniles turned over to ICE by the number of admissions. Unlike the other three counties, the Santa Barbara Probation Department did not supply the admissions data, a fact we did not realize. We interpreted the number of notifications by Probation to ICE of “suspected” undocumented aliens as the total number of admissions. When incorrectly viewed as total admissions to juvenile facilities, these numbers were very low relative to those of the other counties, but they are extremely high when correctly interpreted as reports to ICE of suspected juveniles.
A corrected report based on intake numbers provided to both Nick and myself reveals a far more disturbing picture of the heretofore concealed deportation policy of our Probation Department. Documents provided (and reproduced in the revised report) reveal an extraordinary dedication to reporting to ICE every single juvenile who comes into contact with Probation, whether or not admitted to Juvenile Hall, if the mandated profiling process concludes that he or she may be undocumented. In fact, ICE only deports a small (but growing) number of these profiled “suspects”. That does not stop higher-ups in Probation from demanding of staff that no matter how many times a newly referred youth has previously been profiled by Probation and reported to ICE, he or she must once again be profiled, and if found to be a “suspect” ICE is once again to notified. The complete revised report is found on the IMPORTA website, www.importasb.org.
It is also important to correct a misimpression given by Beverly Taylor, who heads up the Probation Department. Taylor is reported as saying that not all juveniles “released to ICE” are actually deported. “Released” is a euphemism; these juveniles are arrested by ICE and placed into “removal” (another euphemism) proceedings, meaning that they will almost surely be deported regardless of whether they are temporarily returned to their families. Even the few with the resources to hire an attorney rarely escape deportation, although the new DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program may offer hope for some. Zealously profiling all the juveniles it encounters, and turning over the names of “suspects” to ICE for deportation is, in our opinion, contrary to civilized standards of morality.
This investigation is only a peripheral part of IMPORTA’s work which is centered on facilitating the integration of Santa Barbara County’s very large (well over 40%) Hispanic immigrant community into American civic life. We are working (with extremely limited resources) to support struggling organizations that provide important recreational and educational services to young people, working to encourage green card holders to naturalize and Latino citizens to vote; and supporting educational programs, and especially ESL programs, for adult immigrants.
Our largest initiative to date is providing immigrants with assistance with complex immigration issues. IMPORTA is the only non-profit in Santa Barbara County authorized by the US Department of Justice to provide immigration legal services. Most immigrants cannot afford to hire a qualified immigration attorney and often end up being victimized by incompetent “notarios” some of whom are no more than con artists.
Russell Trenholme is the executive director of IMPORTA Santa Barbara