County Sheriffs Differ on AG’s Comments on Compliance w/ Secure Communities
Sheriffs in counties around the state have issued a variety of responses to comments from state Attorney General Kamala Harris, as the state official recently announced that compliance with the Secure Communities program was not mandatory at the local level. For example, LA County Sheriff Lee Baca already has announced that he will pursue changes in light of Harris’ comments, and Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston and Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern have also expressed openness to change. In comparison, Santa Cruz County Sheriff-Coroner Phil Wowak commented that a broader shift across the state would be the best approach, such as revisiting a potential bill to rein in compliance statewide, thereby ensuring a patchwork of policies don’t develop in different counties.
Some immigrant advocates have also advocated for a uniform approach, but the uniformity they seek is complete abolishment of the program. Take Tom Saenz, president of MALDEF, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, who stated, “We need to ensure that the State of California has a uniform commitment to ensuring that peaceful migrants are not removed as a result of what may be an unconstitutional arrest, or an arrest for what amounts to a minor infraction or a minor misdemeanor, at best.”
We’ve relayed previously that Santa Clara County no longer complies with the controversial program---a program that has seen local government turn over undocumented immigrants they arrest to federal law enforcement in detentions known as “ICE holds.” Critics note that thousands of immigrants get deported in the process even if they have no criminal background. The Chronicle notes that “San Francisco complies only if an immigrant booked on suspicion of a crime already has a serious criminal record.”
Notably, Harris’ statement is at odds with the position of the California State Sheriffs' Association, which has concerns about public safety and losing federal funding. Harris stated that compliance shouldn’t be necessary when the feds “neither indemnifies nor reimburses" local law enforcement for Secure Communities activities. See more here and here.