In 2011, the Sonoma County jail transferred more than 930 individuals to ICE custody, most of them non-violent non-felons. In 2012, the number dropped to about 820, probably due to not arresting drivers for driving infractions if they have the Mexican consulate's "matricula," recognized as a valid ID.
Still, the large majority of those detained committed either no crime at all or just a non-violent misdemeanor, and hundreds of families are being torn apart over petty matters. There is also a fiscal cost: Studies from Texas and Washington counties show that individuals with ICE holds are incarcerated some 20 days longer than individuals on the same charges without ICE holds. If 820 individuals per year are held for 20 days at a conservatively estimated $80 per day, the county spends $1.3 million subsidizing ICE by honoring these holds. Federal law says that the federal agency incurs no financial obligation to the jailing authority as a result of these detainers.
It is time to end this practice.
AB 4, the TRUST Act, would end this practice in all California counties. It would restrict the honoring of ICE hold requests to only those for convicted felons. It has passed the state Assembly and the Senate Public Safety Committee and awaits a vote on the Senate floor. After that it would go back to Gov. Jerry Brown who vetoed a different version last fall.
However, even if Brown signs the TRUST Act this year, Freitas has stated publicly that he will sue to enjoin the state law, because he believes, contrary to the attorney general's opinion and ICE itself in numerous pronouncements, that it would conflict with federal law.
Suing to stop this forward-thinking state law would be a grave waste of Sonoma County money. Our county supervisors ought to prohibit the use of county money for holding up the TRUST Act in court and should insist that the sheriff's budget be set to comply with state law.
<i>Jesus Guzman is chairman of the North Bay Organizing Project Immigration Task Force. Letty Romero is president of the North Bay Organizing Project Leadership Council.</i>