Santa Clara County will hold a forum today to inform the public of any times this past year in which local law enforcement cooperated with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The hearing takes place at 6pm in the Board of Supervisors chambers at the County Government Center, 70 W. Hedding St., San Jose.
The meeting is being held in accordance with the Transparent Review of Unjust Transfers and Holds (TRUTH) Act, which former Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law three years ago to increase oversight over federal immigration enforcement in local communities.
South Bay immigrant advocates have reason to worry about the county’s commitment to protecting immigrants. In 2018, the Sheriff’s Office confessed that it allowed ICE to interview undocumented jail inmates in violation of county policy, which limits the extent to which local officials can cooperate with federal immigration agents. Sheriff Laurie Smith said the lapse was inadvertent.
According to a county memo about today’s hearing, deputies from the Sheriff’s Office received training and further guidance on policies and “no further incidents have occurred in the year and a half since that time.”
The county also assured that it declined to honor any of ICE’s requests to hold inmates beyond their court-ordered jail stay and has abstained from disclosing information about inmates’ release dates and probation check-ins. Additionally, sheriff’s officials can only transfer inmates to ICE custody if they have a warrant or court-order.
While the county has strong safeguards to prevent ICE from accessing local jails and getting a heads up about release dates, Maricela Gutiérrez, the executive director of immigrant rights non-profit SIREN, said she’d like to see more accountability to ensure that the rules are followed. “We’re still looking to get more transparency regarding incidents that occurred last year from the sheriff,” she said, “and urging the county to have databases that minimize any possibility of being shared with ICE.”
The forum will be livestreamed on the county’s board agenda website.