Santa Clara County Files Lawsuit to Protect Funding from Being Slashed over ‘Sanctuary’ Status

Santa Clara County asked a judge this morning to block President Donald Trump’s order to slash funds for local governments that refuse to enforce immigration laws.

The county, which would lose $1.7 billion a year under Trump’s edict, called the executive order unconstitutional. South Bay leaders also challenged the president’s repeated assertions that so-called sanctuary jurisdictions are hotbeds of crime and chaos.

A recently released study found that not only are sanctuary jurisdictions safer, but that their economies are stronger as well. The report by the nonprofit Center for American Progress analyzed data from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to compare sanctuary jurisdictions against their counterparts. Here’s what they learned about sanctuary cities and counties:

  • On average, 35.5 fewer crimes per 10,000 people are committed
  • Median annual household income is, on average, $4,353 higher
  • The average poverty rate is 2.3 percent lower
  • The average jobless rate is 1.1 percent lower

Tom K. Wong—the report’s author and a political science professor at the University of California, San Diego—concluded that sanctuary policies improve local economies because they keep families together.

“By keeping out of federal immigration enforcement, sanctuary counties are keeping families together,” he wrote, “and when households remain intact and individuals can continue contributing, this strengthens local economies.”

While there’s no legal definition of a sanctuary city, the term generally refers to jurisdictions that choose not to hand over undocumented immigrants to federal immigration agents. One of the ways local governments achieve sanctuary status is by refusing requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to jail inmates beyond their scheduled release dates.

Case law has repeatedly shown that local police have no legal obligation to enforce immigration laws and actually risk legal liability if they do. A number of federal courts have ruled that the practice—called civil detention, or immigration detention—violates the Fourth Amendment and due process rights.

There’s another practical reason for local law enforcement to limit cooperation with the feds. If people trust that police will treat them equally, regardless of immigration status, they’re more inclined to report crimes and cooperate with investigators.

Santa Clara County adopted a policy in 2011 to only honor immigration detainer requests if ICE foots the bill, which it never does. That doesn’t mean the county freezes out federal immigration agencies, however. ICE still has the authority to use national databases to check the immigration status of anyone who’s accused of a crime.

Every time someone’s arrested in any jurisdiction in the U.S., his or her fingerprint data gets shared with the FBI. The FBI, in turn, discloses that information to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which oversees ICE and related agencies.

Though Santa Clara County refuses to hold defendants beyond their court-ordered release date—though there could be exceptions for more serious crimes—the Sheriff’s Office and Probation Department routinely correspond with and work alongside ICE.

According to emails obtained by San Jose Inside through a public records request, deportation agents asked local probation officers for addresses and other information to help track down suspects multiple times in 2016.

Source: Santa Clara County Probation Department

Source: Santa Clara County Probation Department

Deportation officers from the Morgan Hill and San Jose ICE offices have long worked together with South Bay law enforcement on cases involving unauthorized immigrants suspected of aggravated felonies. Under Trump, however, ICE broadened its enforcement to include even non-criminals and people who had been cooperating with federal agents.

Source: Santa Clara County Probation Department

Source: Santa Clara County Probation Department

In January and February, officials from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) reached out to Sheriff Laurie Smith to arrange a lunch meeting and talk about sharing the shooting range used by her deputies.

“I am amazed at the unique challenges law enforcement has here in California, so it is good to know we can partner up and rely on one another,” Denise Mar, a San Jose-based HSI agent, wrote to Smith about a week before Trump’s inauguration. “I know I have a lot of work to do to get my agency’s name separated from the immigration image, so I would be more than happy to come out (or have one of the supervisors who works for me come out) to give your troops a little bit more of an in depth overview of who HSI is, what we do and how we can assist.”

Source: Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office

Source: Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office

Because of the growing number of jurisdictions that refuse to honor immigration detainers, the DHS has tried other ways to improve cooperation with local agencies.

Since rolling out the Obama-era Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) in 2014, the agency says it has had more success working with local agencies. Under PEP, local agencies send fingerprints to ICE, which can then look up jail release dates or addresses registered with local probation officers.

According to Transactional Records Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, PEP has drastically curbed reported detainer refusal rates from local law enforcement agencies. Santa Clara County’s Main Jail went from recording the highest refusal rate in the nation at 88 percent in 2014 to just 4.8 percent by 2015, the university found.

Source: Syracuse University

Source: Syracuse University

San Jose Inside asked Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Richard Glennon about the dramatic drop, but he offered no explanation.

“Unfortunately, I do not have information related to your request,” he wrote in a Feb. 7 email. “ICE would be a better source to interpret their table.”

ICE spokesman James Schwab, however, never followed up on a call and email for comment. Though recorded refusal rates fell sharply, ICE still fails to secure custody less than 40 percent of the time nationwide.

To read the county's filings in its federal lawsuit, click here. To read the report on sanctuary cities from the Center for American Progress, click here. To watch the county’s press conference about the study, see below.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. Go ahead and waste your tax dollars by filing frivolous lawsuits and trying the old temporary restraining order BS. Won’t work folks when you tell the Federal Government you refuse to obey the Law because you are depending on all your illegals voting you back into power and California becoming some Mustang state. We the white American majority believe in legal immigration of all people of every color and race but not the same people coming in under the fence. One phony Mayor after another will face criminal charges. Donald has told me that Sessions is preparing to hold Grand Juries for all of you Commies. So keep up your revolution and follow the Dum A– Hillary when she does her Sol Alinsky “Resist Shi-“. We are going to do a political cleaning house starting with Liccardo and Garcia.

  2. Can we get an official estimate of how much this lawsuit is expected to cost County taxpayers?

    When we have that number, can we get the cost of filling the average pot hole in our streets?

    Next, what is the number on the County’s list of priorities for spending our tax money on this lawsuit? Is that number higher or lower than their priority for fixing the deferred maintenance on our public streets, parks, and buildings? Which priority is higher, and which one is lower?

    And if the city loses this lawsuit, can the County Board of Supes please conduct a roll-call vote as to what their next course of action will be?

    • Will they accept the Administration’s policy, thus keeping that federal money flowing in?


    • Will they forfeit $1.7 billion a year in order to protect the illegal aliens who are still coming across our porous borders?

    To make it simple: Who do these electeds and their appointees represent? Law abiding Americans? Or foreign scofflaws who have no right to be here?

    (Pick one or the other, Supes, because picking ‘both’ is dissembling.)

    And we’d love to have your individual answers before the next election…

  3. I’ll file a suit against Santa Clara County’s Tax Assessor’s office as my “constitutional right” to property tax sanctuary (and payment avoidance) is being infringed upon.

    • Once President Trump reconstitutes the judiciary with non-lunatic judges, I think you might have a real basis for your suit. “Sanctuary city” policies change the demographics of the county to increase the population of property non-owners, and loads an INCREASED tax burden on a SMALLER proportion of the population who are property owners.

      With a smaller and smaller proportion of the population shouldering the tax burden, at some point the situation violates the “equal protection” provision of the Constitution.

      • SJO(you who have adopted this site as your internet homeless place, not our Int’natl airport) who are the your so called “lunatic judges”? By name. Show me your list.

  4. Bla, Bla, Bla. What I really want for Christmas this year, is seeing Stinky Sam and Fast Eddy frog marched off to Club Fed for a few years of rehabilitation and attitude adjustment all long with the rest of the bureaucrat revolution, and a 1.7 billion dollar fine for arrogance.
    Go TRUMP!

  5. The SCC complaint was filed on 2/3/17, by SCC County Counsel James Robyzad Williams, who has only been practicing law since 11/23/10. How did such a relatively inexperienced guy get that job? He has six other county attorneys working on it, the most senior of whom was admitted to the bar on 12/1/07 and the most junior admitted on 12/1/15. SCC also has powerhouse SF law firm Keker and VanNest, which has five more lawyers listed on the complaint. That’s a lot of SCC taxpayer dollars out the door, but then there are a lot more dollars at stake. Jennifer was kind enough to provide us all with a link to the County’s pleadings; but, surprise, surprise, she failed to provide us with a link to the opposition pleadings. That is of course typical of her, Josh, and SJI. They do not provide news, they provide opinion; and rarely, if ever, do they provide both sides of the story. After I’ve waded through the many dozens of pages of the side of the story provided by Jenn, I may have more comment.

  6. SJI,
    If you want to be taken seriously then use credible sources. The Southern Poverty Law Center, or in this case, the Center For American Progress (CAP) doesn’t make the grade. Yes, I read the reference and the study it’s based upon.

    There may be compelling reasons to claim that illegals boost the economy with crime stats no higher than native or naturalized citizens. But the CAP reference isn’t one. Correlation Does Not iImply Causation – a point CAP conveniently ignores.

    But even if illegals provide a net social benefit, why should our immigration policy and enforcement be changed? More importantly, why allow some to jump the line or give a free pass to drug and crime cartels like MS-13?

  7. I love and respect the NYPD because they are going against the red diaper baby Mayor Deblasio (sic) by contacting the Feds on criminal illegals. That is a police force! Doing the right thing is easy. The identifier ‘Sanctuary City’ really should be renamed ‘Illegality City.’

  8. If I intended to make a case based on a comparison of counties I’d include in my report the names of the counties compared, yet this was not done by the Center for American Progress. Instead, we are expected to blindly accept the center’s findings as accurate, objective, and, most importantly, relevant.

    It is likely the statistics provided are accurate based on the selected sources but even with that two questions are left unanswered, the first being the accuracy of the sources used, the second, the causal relationship between the data presented and the sanctuary-related policies of the included counties. As to the first question, crimes reported is a very subjective matter, affected by factors such as law enforcement recording and classification policies (we’ve caught our own police chief cooking the books on gang crime), public attitude and perception (about whether to call), and police proactivity (are felonies being discovered through self-initiated action or is it, as it is here, relatively safe for even parolees to roam the streets armed or holding drugs?). As to the second question, the fact that sanctuary policies were enacted after these counties were swollen with illegals speaks to the presence of preexisting economic robustness (they didn’t breech our borders in search of economically-depressed localities).

    On the question of objectivity, the study’s authors (and biased extollers) would like us to forget that a county’s crime and employment profile is the product of numerous factors, such as industrial base, demographics, social safety nets, law enforcement staffing and priorities, etc., each far more impactful than its sanctuary policy. Finding two counties with enough similarities to isolate sanctuary for its impact is unlikely, finding dozens is a fantasy. Consider our own county, with a population of about 1.8 million, world-class weather, world-class industry, world-class recreational options, an impressive collection of universities, and a population with an exceptionally low (2%) contingent of the most criminal and violent race of people in America and an exceptionally high percentage of the least criminal race (32%). And we’re supposed to believe there’s a county fit for comparison? No chance.

    Lastly there is the issue of relevance. The federal government interest in foreigners here illegally relates to its mandate to secure our borders and control immigration, reducing the only relevant avenue to challenge its enforcement actions the changing of its mandate. Anything other than that is simply an obstructionist, irresponsible waste of taxpayer dollars.

    What scoundrels like Dave Cortese and Cindy Chavez would have us believe is that their manufactured ends (improved economy and lower crime rate) justify the means (offering safe haven to lawbreakers). But if that were truly the case the county would treat the issue as it does the high-tech industry, and would recruit additional illegals so we could enjoy even more economic improvement and even safer streets. And not to be outdone, Sheriff Laurie Smith would offer sanctuary to Roman Polanski* as he would, given the chance to make a big budget movie in America, add so much to the local economy that it would justify overlooking his fugitive status.

    *Just in case you think this absurd, consider how many sex offenders are here illegally… constrained by none of the costly (and popular) mechanisms we use to track our homegrown perverts and protect our most vulnerable loved ones. Illegals who’ve committed sex crimes in their home countries don’t register with the police, aren’t included in the National Sex Offender Public Website, can’t be tracked via Megan’s Law… they’re here, they’re dangerous, and neither our sheriff, police chief, or civic leaders give a damn.

    • I think the idea that having to pay “Gardeners, House Keepers, and Wet-nurses,” the minimum local wage insted of the five bucks an hour usually payed to illegals by the local left is just terrifying prospect . Thus we can’t afford to round these people up and send them home, it’s a matter losing of cheap domestic help for the “blue collar working class liberal”. Stand by for fainting outrage!


      I’m curious. For some mysterious reason, the postings I am able to make on SJI are constrained by the browsers I use to a few cogent and inspired sentences.

      Is your ability to make extended, thoughtful postings on SJI in any way linked to your browser’s awareness of skin color privilege? If so, what skin color privilege do I need to claim to make postings as lengthy and insightful as yours?

      Can you propose any work-arounds that might convince SJI or my browsers to be more tolerant and respectful of fairness in posting so that my victimization narrative is treated as respectfully as other people’s victimization narratives?

      • “If so, what skin color privilege do I need to claim to make postings as lengthy and insightful as yours?” Well, Bubble Guy, I’m a white guy and when my comment gets beyond 11 lines in the “Leave a Reply” box, the “Post Comment” box disappears, so I cannot post it. Yet I see other bloggers go on and on and on for dozens of lines of text. I’m running Windows 7 on my laptop. What are you running?

        • > I’m running Windows 7 on my laptop. What are you running?

          JMO. I’ve tried it with WIndows 7, and now using Windows 10.

          I’ve tried posting with Chrome, Internet Explorer. and Mozilla.

          In every case, insufficient privilege.

          • Gentlemen,

            I’ve also experienced the mid-bloviation disappearance of the “Post Comment” button but found that tabbing down and then hitting the return button gets the job done.

            By the way, my browser of choice is Internet Oppressor.

  9. I too am running windows 7 and having the same 12 line limit, this didn’t used to be the case.
    This keeps my comments short to the point, and very witty.
    I think it is a clever left wing conspiracy by SJI to limit free speech and oppress right thinking folks that are vanishing back to the free world east of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

    Proper paragraphs are impossible.

    Henceforth we should be known as the “12 Line Oppressed Limited”, or possibly “The Dirty Dozen”.
    12 that’s all folks!

  10. I tried that with a previous laptop running and older version of Windows, and it didn’t work, Fin Fan. However, I’ll try it again with Windows 7 to see what happens.

      • > I tried Fin Fan’s suggestion. It didn’t work.

        I am able to report SUCCESS!

        Try this:

        1. Put your cursor in the text box and compose your penetrating and erudite analysis.
        2. THEN, hit the tab key and the cursor will jump to the first address line. Then tab again, and the cursor will jump to successive address lines and, finally, to the “Post Comment” button.

        I don’t think I’ve ever seen an interface that works this way. Very creative, or very eccentric.

        I would like someone to point out somewhere in the internet cosmos where this interface is documented. Very NON-standard.

  11. The easiest way to continue receiving Federal money is to obey Federal law. There is absolutely no sane reasoning why we should not deport criminal illegal aliens and even more reason to not sue the Federal government for funds to Sanctuary cities who refuse to follow the law. We should be suing our city administrators who are making these inane decisions. Can’t wait until these lawsuits reach the Supreme Court. :-)

  12. If I agree to do my own yard work, pick my own fruits and vegetables from my garden, clean my own hotel room when I arrive and when I leave and use my 2 teenage sons as unskilled day labourers who I will pay less than minimum wage under-the-table, can I have the area where I live declared a “sanctuary neighbourhood” for purposes of Federal income tax then not pay my taxes and have local IRS agents be prevented from taking my money? I’ll even swim across Coyote Creek to simulate an “escape to freedom” if it will save me a few bucks.

    • If you swim east you will be closer to the USA when you get out, unfortunately you will still be in Idiot Territory.
      But we can still order lunch!

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