President-elect Donald Trump stoked a lot of fear in a lot of hearts when he campaigned on the promise to create a deportation force that would round up and remove any and all undocumented immigrants living in the United States. On Sunday, he told 60 Minutes he plans to immediately deport two million to three million immigrants with criminal records. “Gang members, drug dealers,” he said. “We have a lot of these people.” Trump has used the two million figure before, but federal authorities question its accuracy. Data from the Department of Homeland Security and the Migration Policy Institute shows there are 1.9 million “removable criminal aliens” in the U.S., a category that includes any noncitizen with a criminal conviction — both legal residents and undocumented immigrants. Of that number, about 820,000 are undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of a crime.
This Tuesday, Santa Barbara Police Chief Lori Luhnow attempted to calm worries that city cops could become part of Trump’s sweeping deportation raids. “The Santa Barbara Police Department is committed to protecting everyone’s rights, regardless of immigration status,” Luhnow said in a prepared statement. “Our department policies related to immigration have not changed as a result of recent elections. We will continue to arrest and seek prosecution of anyone who has committed a crime in Santa Barbara, but the immigration status alone of individuals in Santa Barbara is NOT a matter for police action.” Luhnow stressed the need for inclusive, thoughtful dialogue and collaboration between the public and the department. “I am, and your police officers are, committed to providing service that meets our community values,” she said.
Sheriff Bill Brown reiterated the same points, explaining that as a general rule, the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office “does not participate in deportation investigations and enforcement actions involving people who are solely undocumented and not in violation of any criminal statutes.” And that’s as it should be, he said. “The immigrant community shouldn’t think law enforcement is going to deport them if they come to us and report a crime or are the victim of a crime.” However, Brown went on, the Sheriff’s Office has a duty to target criminals, regardless of their citizenship status, and to cooperate with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the deportation of “criminal aliens.” “I think even other immigrants would agree that predators who endanger lives have no place here and should be deported from our country,” he said.
According to the Census Bureau’s 2011 American Community Survey, more than 103,000 immigrants live in Santa Barbara County, which accounts for nearly a quarter of its population. Estimates suggest just over 39,000 of them are undocumented.