Among other news shared at last week’s immigration forum organized by the League of Women Voters is that, in the greater Santa Barbara region, the number of cases being granted stays of removal, or temporary postponement of deportation, by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials has decreased. 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 forum’s four panelists. Sheriff Bill Brown and Jacqueline Inda, the founder of Santa Barbara Response Network (SBRN), were also on the panel to update the audience from their respective viewpoints and take questions.
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. Reyes and 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, Brown said. In 2017, ICE picked up 73.2 percent of its requested inmates. In 2018, the number has dropped to 20.5 percent, Brown said. The increased presence in communities has led to collateral arrests during enforcement actions, Reyes said.
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,” she said. “Now anyone can be detained.” Most people who are being detained are held administratively and not for crimes for which they’re serving time, Mendoza added, and 68 percent of those people are unrepresented by counsel. Countywide, roughly 43,000 community members, 9 percent of the population, are undocumented, she said.