I, along with many of you, have looked on with horror at the child separation crisis at the border. A silver lining in all of it is that it has forced us to not to be passive spectators to our democratic process. Our democracy demands a certain vigilance and it's been heartening to see people step up, get informed, donate to causes, join protests, and contact their congressional representatives.
However, I'm here to sound an alarm on a much more corrupting force here at home: the erosion of the due process of law for undocumented residents caught up in the Sheriff’s voluntary Intergovernmental Service Agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The agreement allows the Sheriff wide latitude to transfer people over to ICE with nothing more than an administrative warrant with a detainer request. These warrants carry no constitutional authority and are not signed by a judge. In 2017, 105 people were turned over to ICE this way, near twice as many from 2016. More than half were just waiting for a trial and had not been convicted. The agreement also allows ICE to use our jail to hold immigrants arrested from other jurisdictions in return for money.
Recently, after meeting with activists from Tenants and Workers United and the Legal Aid Justice Center, the Sheriff announced a handful of changes. For those serving a sentence from a judge, he will not hold them past their scheduled release dates, and for those released on bond, hold them up to 16 hours. While this can seem like a step in the right direction, it ignores the capricious nature of the policy and the disrespect for the judicial process. An administrative warrant created and signed by ICE is still all it takes to potentially destroy a family for an immigration violation, which is a civil infraction.
I fear that the Sheriff is simply directing precious resources to rearrange the deck chairs on the sinking Titanic and creating busy work for our hard-working civil servants. If such sweeping changes can be made at the direction of one man, it creates a mockery of the judicial process meant to protect us all from overreach. If instead, the onus was put on ICE to acquire a judicial warrant, the matter is out of the Sheriff's hands and we can be more certain of the predictably of due process and that justice was served.
Our local law enforcement's job is just that: to enforce our local laws. It should not wrap itself up in creating policy and should leave policy making to our policy makers. Respectfully, if the Sheriff does not have the courage to end this overreach, there are many noble professions elsewhere that could best use his knack for creating policy.