County Supervisors Review Immigration Policy, Civil Detainer Requests

Santa Clara County’s Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will review its policy on how local law enforcement should cooperate with federal immigration authorities. The county was one of the first in the nation to take a stand against a 2010 Obama administration enforcement policy that led to a record number of deportations in California.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill earlier this month that exempts California from honoring some Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) requests to detain undocumented suspects a day or two longer. Cities and counties now have to update their laws to bring them in line with the state; or they can make a decision to go above and beyond state requirements.

If a suspect has already been convicted of a serious or violent offense, or there’s strong evidence that the suspect has committed one, the new state-mandated minimum requires cooperation with ICE.

The county put its civil detainer policy in place in 2011. A year prior, President Obama enacted a law that allowed the Department of Homeland Security to screen fingerprints of local detainees for immigration status, as well as ask police to hold them for up to 48 hours. The county set a national precedent by ignoring this law.

The county wound up saying no holds for youth, no holds for longer than 24 hours and no holds unless federal authorities reimbursed local law enforcement. Since ICE doesn’t reimburse local agencies, that last clause was essentially a way of saying the county refuses to honor any request.

“In that sense, our policy goes further than the state’s—because of that reimbursement piece,” says a spokesperson for Board President Ken Yeager.

Immigration rights groups have said that they worry a change to the local civil detainer policy would breach trust with the community of local immigrants. Countywide, 37 percent of residents are foreign-born, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Even before Brown passed the Trust Act, District Attorney Jeff Rosen wanted to revise the county policy to grant detainer requests for violent and serious offenders. He submitted a report last year that analyzed 788 detainer requests to the county between October 2011 and February 2012. Of those requests, 369 defendants were released. Of those 369, 110 qualified for detention under the DA’s proposed amendment—their criminal histories were marked by bench warrants, stay-away orders and felony convictions. Sixty-five of those people were placed on probation at the county’s expense. Rosen says the county could have saved $200,000 during that four-and-a-half-month period, or about $530,000 a year.

The Public Defender’s office called for the county to keep its civil detainer policy as is, effectively dismissing federal requests to detain anyone. Rosen’s data “shows no increase in crime committed by individuals released because of the civil detainer policy,” according to a report issued by the agency. None of the 110 individuals who would have been detained under the DA’s proposed amendment committed serious or violent crimes after their release, the study continues.

Sheriff Laurie Smith stands somewhere in the middle, arguing that at least some defendants should be referred to federal agents at her own discretion.

More from the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors agenda for November 5, 2013:

• Quarterly P-card expense reports are in from the supervisors, the DA and county Assessor Larry Stone. They show that Rosen spent $300 on a couple gala events, including one hosted by the La Raza Lawyers Association of Santa Clara Valley. Supervisor Joe Simitian’s office spent $205 on paper sticky notes. Stone spent $800 on a conference for tax assessors (fun!) and $110 for subscriptions to the Milpitas Post and the Berryessa Sun. San Jose Inside remains free.

• About $625,000 of Measure A money—proceeds from the voter-approved 1/8-cent sales tax—will go to a domestic violence prevention consortium.

Linen laundry services at the Santa Clara Valley Health and Hospital System will cost the county $9 million through 2018.

• Updated local code would require the county to include electric car charging stations in every new public construction project valued at $1 million or more.

WHAT: Board of Supervisors meets
WHEN: 9am Tuesday
WHERE: County Government Center, 70 W. Hedding St., San Jose
INFO: Lynn Regadanz, lynn.regadanz@cob.sccgov.org

Jennifer Wadsworth is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to jenniferw@metronews.com or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

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