The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors this morning approved an immigration policy that will allow local authorities to stop honoring the federal immigration agency's requests to detain suspected illegal immigrants in jail for extra time.
The policy was passed on a 3-1 vote. Supervisor Mike Wasserman dissented and Supervisor Liz Kniss was absent.
Last year, the county attempted to opt out of Secure Communities, a federal fingerprint-reporting program aimed at criminals suspected of being in the country illegally.
Federal immigration officials claimed the program is an important information-sharing tool for identifying and expediting the removal of illegal immigrants who are taken into local law enforcement custody.
Opponents of the program, however -- many of them immigrants and immigration rights activists -- say the program has been forced on the county by the federal government and the state, and that it hampers public safety.
They claim the program results in a disregard for basic civil rights, opens the door to racial profiling, and has a negative fiscal impact on the county.
Critics argue that although the program targets serious offenders, it sweeps up even people with no criminal convictions or convictions for minor offenses like driving without a license.
The program works by having local agencies take fingerprints of people who are arrested and checking the fingerprints against the Department of Homeland Security's identification system and FBI criminal databases.
If there is a match, federal agents work with the county in detaining, questioning, and eventually taking custody of the individuals, which is done via civil immigration holds, also known as detainers.
Detainers are a request from ICE to local law enforcement officials to detain individuals for up to an additional 48 hours so that ICE agents can pick them up.
The county's policy says those requests will be honored only for those who were convicted of a serious or violent crime. Supervisor George Shirakawa added an amendment to have the federal government provide a written
agreement to reimburse all costs the county would incur in order for any detainers to be honored.
"We're not going to do ICE's job," Shirakawa said today. "We shouldn't have to."
Following the board meeting this morning, a coalition of community organizations held a news conference commending the vote.
Among them were People Acting in Community Together; Services, Immigrant Rights, and Education Network; The Coalition for Justice and Accountability; Asian Law Alliance; and Silicon Valley De-Bug.
"This is the day that Santa Clara County took down a bully – a bully that has lied, deceived, and intentionally put out false information all to break apart our families," said De-Bug founder Raj Jayedev. "We showed the rest of the country how to do it."
--Bay City News