San Francisco has stopped honoring detention requests for suspected undocumented immigrants in jail who would otherwise be eligible for release, joining most other Bay Area counties in suspending the controversial practice, Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi announced today.
This month, Contra Costa, Alameda and San Mateo counties have already announced that they are no longer cooperating with the requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, while Santa Clara County has legislation in place that ICE must pay detention fees if the agency wants the county’s cooperation.
San Francisco had already limited the practice—Mirkarimi revised the extent of the city’s cooperation with it in early 2013 which he said limited detentions by 62 percent, and the Board of Supervisors passed legislation later that year putting even more limitations on it.
The policy was limited at a state level as well after Gov. Jerry Brown signed the TRUST Act, which took effect in January, instructing law enforcement agencies not to comply with the policy unless the inmate has a serious criminal history.
The ICE policy was instituted in 2009. ICE issues requests to local law enforcement agencies to hold suspected undocumented immigrants for periods of up to 48 hours to be transferred to ICE custody for possible deportation, no matter the severity of their crime.
The policy has remained controversial since then, with critics charging that it denies suspects due process by holding them without a warrant or probable cause, leading to the limits on the practice.
The recent wave of sheriff’s offices dropping compliance with the policy was spurred by a U.S. District Court ruling in Oregon that counties could be held liable for a suspect’s unlawful detention under an ICE request.
ICE officials clarified that the holds were not mandatory prior to that ruling, leaving individual counties open to liability if they complied and the request turned out to be without merit.
“Arriving at a no-holds ICE policy culminates from San Francisco’s early leadership in challenging the deportation defects of Homeland Security’s Secure Communities Act, coupled with the Oregon court’s decision on the unconstitutionality of ICE Detainers,” Mirkarimi said in a statement.
“Public safety is not advanced and could be hindered when immigrant communities fear the repercussions of cooperating with law enforcement,” Mirkarimi said.
The San Francisco-based immigrant rights group Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus hailed San Francisco’s policy shift today while criticizing federal officials for not reexamining the policy.
“While President Obama unjustly stalls in reviewing his administration’s inhumane deportation policies, which has resulted in a record 2 million deportations,” the group wrote in a statement, “the new San Francisco policy upholds constitutional due process protections and disentangles local law enforcement from ICE.”
Scott Morris, Bay City News