2017-04-20 / Editorials

Senate bill would make us less safe

guest opinion
By Geoff Dean
Special to The Acorn

Recent conversations surrounding federal immigration policies have caused fear among segments of the population and debate at all levels of government. One of the most recent and serious legislative entries in the immigration debate is California state Senate Bill 54.

Local law enforcement has been repeatedly clear in spoken and written word: We have not and will not be involved in immigration enforcement in our communities. We believe that a strong relationship with our communities built on trust is essential.

Some believe that once people are in our country, legally or illegally, they should be allowed to stay regardless of what crimes they commit. I believe when people are booked into jail for a criminal offense and they may be in our country unlawfully, they should be vetted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Criminal immigrants are certainly not representative of our immigrant community; however, we cannot ignore the fact that there are undocumented immigrants, as well as citizens, who commit crimes and represent a threat to the people of Ventura County.

Our local immigration enforcement policy has been the same for the past 20 years. Our policy is to notify those incarcerated immigrants when ICE desires to interview them and ensure the individual knows they have the option to decline the interview. In addition, as supported by federal judicial rulings, no one is unconstitutionally detained past the date all local charges are resolved.

SB 54 bars state and local law enforcement agencies from using resources to help with immigration enforcement and prohibits them from asking about immigration status or giving federal immigration authorities access to interview a person in custody.

It also prohibits ICE access to jail facilities. Criminal undocumented immigrants who are currently serving time in county jail for serious or violent crimes would simply be released back into our communities upon completion of their sentences.

Misleadingly called the California Values Act, supporters of SB 54 argue it will build trust between local law enforcement and immigrant communities. I’m concerned there is a risk it will have the opposite effect.

If federal immigration officials are barred from jail facilities and local law enforcement is barred from communicating with them, it stands to reason ICE would have little choice but to take their investigations into our communities. ICE raids in our neighborhoods increase the likelihood agents will come into contact with undocumented persons not targeted by their investigations.

In essence, this practice would create the fear and mistrust SB 54 purports to prevent. Current policy of allowing ICE to vet those in jail for criminal offenses specifically identifies the criminal immigrants we may not want returning to our streets.

Scare tactics have fueled misplaced concern about local law enforcement teaming with ICE to conduct raids and arrest individuals for immigration violations.

Some have even suggested that Ventura County deputies will join ICE agents, surround schools and arrest mothers for immigration violations as they drop off their children.

This rhetoric is absurd and only serves to unnecessarily heighten tensions and strain communication between the sheriff’s department and the people we serve.

SB 54 has passed the state Senate and is currently in the Assembly. Please contact your Assembly representative and urge them to fix this bill.

Dean is sheriff of Ventura County.

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