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United States deportation policies challenged in Santa Clara County, CA
by Spencer Graves
Thursday Jan 31st, 2013 12:19 AM
Thursday, January 31, 2013, the Policy Review committee associated with the Santa Clara County Public Safety and Justice Committee will hold a public hearing on the county's current policy of refusing to honor requests from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This hearing is a partial response to a request for Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen to change that policy to comply with detention requests for certain offenses.

Yesterday's San Jose Mercury News included an op ed piece by Supervisor Dave Cortese, acting Public Defender, Molly O'Neal, and Director of the Domestic Violence Advocacy Consortium, Cynthia Hunter. Cortese, O'Neal and Hunter say, "There is nothing more valuable to public safety than community trust in local law enforcement because it establishes residents' willingness to report crimes and cooperate with police. But that trust will break down immeasurably in immigrant communities if residents face the debilitating fear of deportation. This is especially true in Santa Clara County, where two-thirds of residents live in immigrant households. ... The civil immigration detainer policy enacted by the Board of Supervisors in 2011 has successfully rebuilt this community trust ... . Proposals to change the policy to detain nearly all people accused of committing a felony, or some misdemeanors, should be rejected."

Rosen claimed that the current policy violates Marsy's Law, which among other provisions, established a legal right for crime victims to be notified of, to attend, and to state their views at, sentencing and parole hearings. He also claimed that changing it would increase public safety "by stopping the premature release of felons and others who have committed crimes that endanger the safety of our residents", and would reduce the costs of probation services for criminals moved into federal custody. He also claimed that changing it would have no impact on children or seniors.

Each of these claims have subsequently been questioned. First, it's unclear how Marsy's law applies, as the provisions of that law should be honored independent of whether or not an individual's detention is extended at the request of ICE. Second, the increase in public safety allegedly obtained by "stopping the premature release" might be more than offset by a decrease in the willingness of people to report crimes and otherwise cooperate with law enforcement, as suggested in the comments by Cortese, O'Neal and Hunter mentioned above. Third, whenever anyone is detained, any dependent children or seniors suffer.

Beyond this, ICE policy claims that law enforcement agencies "may only hold an individual for a period not to exceed 48 hours" in response to an ICE detainer. However, Colorado and Los Angeles have reported that ICE holds have averaged over 20 days – more than 10 times the official 2-day maximum.

Santa Clara District Attorney Rosen also claimed that honoring ICE holds would not increase costs to the county. This seems inconsistent with the reports from Colorado and Los Angeles. Beyond the direct cost of the increased detention time, Los Angeles is being sued for detentions that allegedly violate US law. If they lose, the local government, not ICE, would likely have to pay for these illegal detentions.