The chief federal prosecutor in San Diego County praised Sheriff Bill Gore Friday for agreeing to cooperate with court orders from the U.S. government seeking migrant-arrest data that California’s sanctuary-state legislation seeks to shield.
“The sharing of information by law enforcement is crucial to protecting the public and the effective enforcement of our laws,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer of the Southern District of California, which includes San Diego and Imperial counties.
Last Friday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials served subpoenas on the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department to compel the county agency to produce information on four recent cases involving arrests of Mexican nationals present in the country without authorization. It was the first time ICE had taken such a step in California.
On Thursday, the sheriff’s department announced that it would comply with the orders, even though the passage of Senate Bill 54 in 2017 sought to significantly limit the extent to which local police agencies in California can help enforce immigration law.
“Until now, (the U.S. Department of Homeland Security) has only requested information from the Sheriff’s Department. With the issuance of these subpoenas, DHS is using federal statutory authority to compel the Sheriff’s Department to provide certain records,” said the county agency’s statement.
Failing to do so “can be punishable by (findings of) contempt of federal court,” according to the Sheriff’s Department.
The four suspects in question have “extensive criminal records and history of illegal entry into the United States,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which asserted that the men also face additional charges, including sexual assault of a minor, spousal abuse, false imprisonment and drug possession.
“We appreciate the Sheriff’s Department’s compliance with the ICE enforcement subpoenas,” Brewer said. “We are particularly grateful for the strong working relationships among federal and local law enforcement agencies in the Southern District of California.”
The county law enforcement agency has complied with two of the writs, according to Brewer’s office. The remaining two are due next week.
Though Gore said he has never wanted his personnel tasked with “enforcing immigration law,” the records being sought by the federal government via the four subpoenas constituted the type of information he would prefer to turn over in any case, due to the seriousness of the charges involved, the sheriff told City News Service.
The 2 1/2-year-old California Values Act — which prohibits local law enforcement agencies from arresting people solely due to immigration status and limits what they can disclose to federal immigration authorities about suspects in their custody — includes exceptions for 800 serious offenses, including murder, rape and other violent crimes.
While the charges against the four suspects named in the local ICE subpoenas do not fall into the exempted category, Gore believes they should.
If released, such offenders often “end up back in the community, to prey on the same communities they came from, whether they be documented or undocumented communities,” the sheriff asserted.
Though he finds fault with some aspects of the sanctuary law — notably, the limits of the exempted-crimes list — he has taken no official stand on the legislation, pro or con.
“I’m trying to keep my eye on the ball on what’s best for public safety,” Gore said.
The ICE subpoenas issued to the Sheriff’s Department call for only release of information, not for transfer to the federal government of the suspects who remain in custody. Two were released late last year.
ICE officials took the unusual enforcement step because the state sanctuary law prevents the department from honoring immigration “detainers” — holds on people present in the country illegally and in local custody — and “prohibits it from granting requests for non-public information to assist in locating criminal aliens that have been or will be released from custody.”
Since January, ICE has issued similar subpoenas in Connecticut, Denver and New York.
Should any of the served law enforcement agencies neglect or refuse to respond to the writs, an immigration officer may seek a U.S. District Court order requiring compliance, according to federal officials.
— City News Service