Orange County sheriff’s officials Wednesday released department statistics showing that in 2018, the first year of the so-called Sanctuary State law, the agency handed off 717 of the county jail’s inmates to federal immigration authorities.
The law prevents the sheriff’s department from turning over inmates to ICE within the jail, but deputies have gotten around that by posting the release date of inmates on the jail website, which gives the federal agency a chance to track when an ICE detainee is going to be released and pick them up as they walk out of jail.
Last year, a total of 1,823 of the county’s jail inmates were wanted by ICE. Deputies were prevented by the law from notifying ICE of the release of 1,106 of those inmates.
Of those inmates with ICE “detainer” status, 173 were arrested again for 58 types of crime, including attempted murder, assault and battery, child molestation and robbery, according to the sheriff’s department.
Of those arrested again in Orange County, four arrests were for attempted murder, 10 for robbery, two each for child molestation and kidnapping, and one each for lewd acts, spousal rape, statutory rape and child abduction.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department does not know how many were arrested outside the county.
Sheriff Don Barnes, who said during his campaign last year that he does not object to other parts of the law, reiterated his opposition to the part of the law preventing him from coordinating inmate transfers to ICE.
“Open communication among law enforcement partners is a best practice for public safety agencies,” Barnes said, adding that the Sanctuary State law “hinders this communication and puts the community at risk. I will continue to exercise my full authority as sheriff and notify ICE when allowed by law.”
During the sheriff’s campaign last year, when he was the undersheriff, Barnes participated in the making of public service announcement videos with the Mexican Consulate that assured that sheriff’s deputies were not enforcing immigration laws.
The PSAs were meant to alert immigrations living in the country illegally that law enforcement will not arrest them if they report a crime or are the victims of a crime.
“We do not enforce immigration law,” Barnes said at a news conference in October. “We have never enforced immigration laws and we will not enforce immigration law on the street level.”
The sheriff added then, “If you call for help, we will be there for you. We will not be subjecting anyone to any inquiry regarding your immigration status.”
Supporters of the Sanctuary State law say that local law enforcement helping ICE with immigration arrests scares off undocumented immigrants from reporting crimes.
Barnes, however, said he will continue to advocate for the repeal of the Sanctuary State law.
“Public policy rooted in short-term political goals makes us less safe,” he said. “Lawmakers must repeal laws that limit law enforcement’s ability to collaborate on shared threats. Let’s move beyond politics and let law enforcement operate under the best practices that have proven to provide a more secure community.”
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