With notable lack of fanfare and effective May 28, County Sheriff Bill Brown has stopped holding immigrants incarcerated in the County Jail 48 hours beyond their detention dates as a courtesy to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The month before, a federal judge in Oregon had ruled that such holds unsupported by federal warrants were unconstitutional. Since then, sheriff agencies throughout the country — but especially in California — have stopped what had been a routine practice over the past five years.
This week, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck announced his department would no longer participate with federal authorities in such holds; last month the Orange County Sheriff did the same. While Brown has maintained an assiduously low profile on the matter, his spokesperson Kelly Hoover reported ICE requested that such holds be placed on 611 county jail inmates who’d been detained on various charges while in the United States illegally.
Hazel Davalos, an organizer with the Central Coast Immigration Rights Coalition, said she hopes to meet with Brown in August to obtain a written clarification of the department’s position. Beyond the federal ruling, Davalos noted that the Trust Act, signed by Governor Jerry Brown, went into effect this year, which mandates that each of California’s 58 counties extricate itself from the Secure Communities Program, out of which the ICE holds originated.
Davalos said the stated intent of Secure Communities — to deport serious criminals to their countries of origin — failed in practice as a majority of those deported were not criminals at all or were minor violators. “The most serious consequence was the erosion of trust between law enforcement and the immigrant communities,” she said. “If you know your husband could be deported if you call about domestic abuse, who’s going to call?”