Kelsey Brugger’s story on the arrest and incarceration of immigrants discharged from our County Jail highlighted a problem with many progressives’ desire that Santa Barbara declare itself a “Sanctuary City.” In the narrowest sense (used by Attorney General Jeff Sessions), a Sanctuary City is one in which police fail to divulge information about a person’s citizenship or immigration status to Homeland Security. The police departments of most cities realize that undocumented immigrants are far less likely to report crimes if information about their immigration status may be communicated to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), and thus they limit such communications.
But this alone is not sufficient to justify the label of “Sanctuary City” as understood by both its supporters and its opponents. In reality, only an entire county, such as Travis County, Texas (county seat, Austin), fits the popular conception. Why? Because the primary source of ICE arrests are county jails under the control of sheriffs who fully cooperate with ICE in permitting free access to the jail facility, its inmates, and its records, and then inform ICE of the time of release of all prisoners whom ICE wishes to arrest.
Sheriff Bill Brown’s policies fit this description. In some respects, they go beyond even the new aggressively pro-deportation polices of the Department of Homeland Security, which state that anyone arrested for a crime, even if their case has not been adjudicated, is subject to arrest by ICE. As in the case cited in your story, our sheriff and the local ICE are going beyond that policy to arrest even those against whom no charges have been filed. I know of another case where all charges were dropped, and in both cases our Sheriff notified ICE of their time of release and contrived to have ICE waiting for them. In both cases, the persons were not only arrested but were sent to incarceration in the remote Adelanto ICE detention facility. Under the Obama administration, such persons were rarely arrested by ICE, and most of those who were arrested were released on their own recognizance or offered release by ICE on a minimal $1,500 bond.
Anyone who claims that Santa Barbara might be a Sanctuary City is either unaware of what is happening in our jail or engaging in disingenuous posturing. Unfortunately, a large faction within the local liberal community has been seduced by our sheriff’s atypically literate disinformation about his level of cooperation with ICE. The usual response when his policies are brought up has been, “Oh, let’s meet with him and talk this over. He’s a reasonable person.” This “meeting and talking” has been going on for a decade with absolutely no result. I welcome more reports from Kelsey Brugger on this issue.