Just days after federal immigration officials issued a report accusing the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office of failing to cooperate, David Marin, an immigration enforcement director, called Sheriff Bill Brown to apologize. “It was an error on ICE’s part,” Brown said. “Somehow it got transposed or something and showed up as being our inmate, but it was not.”
On March 20, officials with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) announced they would issue weekly reports essentially shaming counties that refused to hold requested foreign-born inmates after their sentences had been served. The first report covered a one-week time period in late January, but Sheriff’s officials said they could not find any records for the case cited, which involved a convicted forger. (The second report was not released as of press time.)
The reports charged these jurisdictions posed a potential threat to American safety by their failure to cooperate. These accusations surprised many as Brown has come under fire from activists for regularly allowing ICE agents into the jail and notifying them when wanted inmates would be released. Brown, however, won’t hold inmates longer than their local sentence, as that violates California law.
ICE has also since confirmed defendants do not need to be incarcerated to be picked up. In response to questions about concerns that those merely signing off after completing community service could be detained, Virginia Kice, an ICE spokesperson, explained ICE agents generally request to hold inmates when they are first booked into custody, but they do not seek to detain them until they complete their sentence — “be it incarceration or some other alternative.”
She gave three recent examples, including a Mexican-born individual convicted of DUI who was picked up by ICE on February 23. Kice said the same thing happened last fall to two inmates — one who was convicted of selling meth and the other convicted of assaulting a spouse.
But Kice declined to say how many holds ICE agents have requested since late January, when President Donald Trump announced his expanded immigration policies. Vincent Wasilewski, the chief who oversees the County Jail, said he has not seen “any discernable difference” in the number of holds requested.
Wasilewski added it “wouldn’t be a stretch for ICE” agents to wait in the parking lot for wanted inmates, calling it “good investigation work.” As for the types of criminal charges that would likely spark ICE’s interest, he said the “sky has always been the limit.”