California Counties Bow To Pro-Illegal Alien Activists To Make Sanctuary Policies More Extreme
FAIR Take | November 2021
California became a sanctuary state in 2017 with the passage of Senate Bill (SB) 54. While reckless and dangerous, it still contains numerous exceptions where state and local law enforcement are allowed (but not required) to work with federal immigration authorities. Yet several California counties have recently decided to imperil their communities by making their sanctuary policies more extreme and restrictive than state law requires putting criminal aliens ahead of law-abiding citizens and legal immigrants.
Under SB 54, county jails may honor an immigration detainer for an individual in their custody if that person has been convicted of certain qualifying crimes. Detainers are requests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold someone for up to 48 hours prior to their release on state criminal charges so that ICE can take custody of that individual. In order for law enforcement to honor a detainer request, a criminal alien:
- Must have been convicted of “a serious or violent felony;”
- Must have been convicted of “a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison;”
- Must have been convicted “within the past five years of a misdemeanor for a crime that is punishable as either a misdemeanor or a felony for, or has been convicted within the last 15 years of a felony” for certain enumerated offenses;
- Must be “a current registrant on the California Sex and Arson Registry;
- Must have “been convicted of a federal crime that meets the definition of an aggravated felony” or be “identified by the United States Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement as the subject of an outstanding federal felony arrest warrant.”
Bowing to pressure from pro-illegal alien advocates, San Mateo County Sheriff Carlos Bolanos announced on November 11 that he would no longer honor detainers for anyone in his jail “without a judicial warrant.” This demand for a judicial immigration warrant has been repeatedly described as a “sanctuary fig leaf,” because no such warrants exist under federal law. Therefore, criminal aliens with even the most serious violent prior felony convictions will now be released back into San Mateo County with ICE detainers ignored.
Sheriff Bolanos’ capitulation makes Alameda County the last county in the San Francisco Bay Area that will consider whether to honor a detainer for the most egregious convicted criminal aliens. According to Sgt. Ray Kelly, a spokesman for his office, Sheriff Gregory Ahern will continue to cooperate with ICE in specific cases where he is allowed by state law. But Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín has condemned the sheriff for even this limited cooperation.
Los Angeles (LA) County, the nation’s most populous county with more than ten million people, has banned honoring detainers since Sheriff Alex Villanueva imposed a “temporary moratorium” on the practice in April 2020. The LA County Board of Supervisors made the directive permanent in September. Prior to Sheriff Villanueva’s ban, former Sheriff Jim McDonnell honored 945 detainers for qualifying criminal aliens in 2019.
Now pro-illegal alien advocates are focused on San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore who currently cooperates with immigration officials. Sheriff Gore has resisted the mounting pressure against him noting that he has only released 78 criminal aliens to ICE last year compared to the 51,000 individuals released from jail. Among those transferred to ICE, the most common charges included trafficking of controlled substances, robbery and assault. He adds, “I can’t speak for the other sheriffs that have chosen not … to transfer people to ICE that meet the qualifications of the values act, but I would submit these sheriffs don’t share a 60-mile border with Mexico.”