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Sonoma County immigration advocates, sheriff clash over bill to limit detentions


Sonoma County immigration advocates and Sheriff Steve Freitas have worked cooperatively in the past but now are clashing over legislation before Gov. Jerry Brown.

If signed into law, the measure would prohibit local police agencies from detaining suspected illegal immigrants on federal immigration holds, except in cases where suspects have been charged with a serious or violent felony or convicted of one in the past.

Steriff Steve Freitas.

Freitas opposes the measure, saying it would force him to either defy the new state law or ignore federal regulations.

“That is in direct conflict with federal law,” he said. “I will have to pick one law to break if the governor signs it, either state or federal.”

But supporters of the bill, Assembly Bill 1081 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, argue that immigration holds issued by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE, are “voluntary requests,” not mandatory requirements.

Jesus Guzman, head of the immigration task force of the North Bay Organizing Project, said Freitas’ position was a “little unexpected.”

The group worked closely with Freitas and other local law enforcement leaders last year to adopt a countywide policy that allows their agencies to accept new Mexican consular identification cards as a valid form of ID.

Like AB1081, the countywide policy is designed to help prevent undocumented immigrants facing minor charges from being identified by immigration officials trolling the county jail.

Once in jail, many illegal immigrants are flagged by ICE’s Secure Communities program. Under the program, each inmate’s fingerprints and other biometric data is checked against federal immigration records, identifying inmates who entered the country illegally.

When it began several years ago, Secure Communities was touted by the federal government as an effective way of going after illegal immigrants who have committed serious or violent crimes.

But local critics, including a number of immigration attorneys, say the program casts a wide net that sometimes ensnares legal immigrants and immigrants jailed for minor charges or who end up with their charges dropped.

When an immigration hold is issued, federal rules state that local law enforcement agents “shall maintain custody of the alien” for up to 48 hours, giving federal authorities the opportunity to take the inmate into custody.

Freitas said the word “shall” clearly defines his obligation. He said the county counsel has agreed with his interpretation of the language.

Guzman said he and other North Bay Organizing Project members would like to meet with Freitas to discuss the matter.

“We want to hear that from him, if that’s where he really stands,” he said.

Earlier this week, Guzman and other immigration advocates traveled to Sacramento to attend a rally at the Capitol in support of Ammiano’s bill, known as the Trust Act, which last Friday cleared the Legislature.

Guzman said the North Bay Organizing Project and local clergy plan a similar rally in front of the Sonoma County Jail at 4 p.m. Sept. 6.

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 521-5213 or martin.espinoza@pressdemocrat.com.

9 Responses to “Sonoma County immigration advocates, sheriff clash over bill to limit detentions”

  1. Snarky says:

    I wonder if all the fighting about “illegal immigration” between legal US Citizens would be ongoing….

    IF the Federal Government had done its job over the last 75 years and actually enforced the border ?

    Alas, the government stands back and watches all the fighting between you and pretends it has no part of the problem.

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  2. John Morton says:

    A country without a controlled, regulated border is not a country, it is a political subdivision of another country. The United States is a sovereign independent nation. It is not a politican subdivision of Mexico or any other country.

    Those non-citizens who enter this country illegally are violating the laws of this country and need to be penalized and deported.

    The California state legislature and good old Governor Brown cannot violate federal law just because they don’t like it.

    If a Mexican or other foreigner is found to be here illegally, they need to face the justice system and deportation. End of story.

    If state or local law enforcement has reason to believe they have arrested an illegal alien, they are obligated to hold that person for the feds.

    We cannot have lawless actions by local law enforcement just because a few believe there should be open borders and everyone at anytime can enter this country illegally by passing a state law which on the face of it, is unconstitutional.

    If the Caifornia state legislature passed a law legalizing slavery, how long would be before the feds stepped in and stopped the implementation.

    We cannot have a state that passes its own laws that contravene the laws of this country. California is not an independent country.

    The sheriff is doing his job and the right thing. He should be supported and praised.

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  3. Doodles says:

    I don’t get it. Why is it that “immigration advocates” argue that only the federal government can make immigration laws when one passes they don’t like, yet they try to pass laws that relax and defy any enforcement of exiting laws? You can’t have it both ways. Immigrants, legal or otherwise, shouldn’t break ANY laws—they should be attempting to show why they are a benefit, no drain, on society.

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  4. Bill me says:

    Another reason to get rid of elected officials who pass regulations that are confusing and unnecessary. We have plenty of laws in place. Enforce the ones we have before creating conflicting laws!

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  5. Reality Check says:

    It’s getting a little late in the game for immigration reform advocates to credibly insist they aren’t calling for amnesty. What they want may not be formal, de jure amnesty, but if one isn’t subject to the law then de facto amnesty is the policy. We’re pretty darn close to that today.

    Come one, come all. The welcome is out.

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  6. The Hammer says:

    Thank you Sheriff for doing your job.

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  7. R.B. Fish says:

    Great news Sheriff. Thanks for protecting American citizens from illegal immigration. Further thanks for your efforts in trying to prevent possible violence on us taxpayers and citizens simply by the sheer numbers of people who are here for the money and the privelege of being an American. It more than probable the police unions are behind this as more illegal immigrants means more civil problems thus more police and fire required, more taxes and more unfunded liabilities exposure. All resulting in poorer quality of life. It’s great you are standing up for the vast majority of SoCO residents and trying to educate foreigners about American law. Hopefully you’ll step up the game.

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  8. Jim Bennett says:

    The Sheriff will have much more important decisions to make than this…
    very soon.

    People in uniform, those that took an oath will have to decide if they’re ‘gonna go along with tyranny or stand for what’s right.

    American or globalist.

    THAT is the question.

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  9. Citizen says:

    Good for you, Sherriff Freitas. Stand strong. Most of America supports you, even if the vocal minority would make it seem like you’re standing alone.

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