The number of cases being granted stays of removal, or temporary postponement of deportation, by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials has decreased in our area. That’s according to Erica Reyes, the district representative for Congressmember Salud Carbajal, and corroborated by Anahi Mendoza, executive director of the Immigration Legal Defense Center, two of the four panelists invited to Wednesday’s immigration forum at the Faulkner Gallery. The forum is one in a series organized by the League of Women Voters to educate the community on current political issues. Sheriff Bill Brown and Jacqueline Inda, the founder of Santa Barbara Response Network (SBRN), were also invited to the panel. Each was allotted 15 minutes to present “what is happening today” regarding immigration from their respective viewpoints before taking questions from audience members.
The decrease in the number of cases being granted temporary postponement of deportation is only one way in which immigration enforcement has changed in our county. Erica Reyes and Bill Brown spoke about how the implementation of “sanctuary state” laws, including California’s Senate Bill 54, have changed the way enforcement actions take place. Because ICE’s access to inmates has decreased, the agency is going into the community to conduct enforcement actions, said Brown. In 2017, ICE picked up 73.2 percent of its requested inmates. In 2018, the number has dropped to 20.5 percent, reported Brown. The increased presence in communities has led to collateral arrests during enforcement actions, said Reyes.
Anahi Mendoza disagreed with Brown and emphasized that community enforcement actions are “not something new.” What has changed, said Mendoza, is the priority of enforcement: “Before, people who had certain criminal convictions were priorities for enforcement. Now anyone can be detained.” Most people who are being detained are held administratively and not for crimes for which they’re serving time, said Mendoza, and 68 percent of those people are unrepresented by counsel. In our county, roughly 43,000 community members, 9 percent of the population, are undocumented, said Mendoza.