Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said California has become a de facto sanctuary state because of all of the jurisdictions that do not honor immigration detainers requested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE.
"By ICE's own numbers, 95 percent of the people they used to arrest, that they’ve already identified, that they want to take custody of, are getting out of jail before they can get to them. And that’s scary, because they’re criminals. They’ve demonstrated a propensity for criminal behavior," Jones said.
Jones said a recent court ruling out of Clackamas County Oregon made it more apparent that ICE immigration detainers are merely requests to hold undocumented immigrants accused of crimes, and not orders. He said once local charges clear for undocumented immigrants accused of crimes, they must be let out of jail.
"The ACLU is creating more national immigration policy than the federal government," Jones said.
Jones told FOX40 the American Civil Liberties Union sent letters to sheriff's departments across the country in 2014, saying immigration detainers are requests, and not commands, and that complying with those requests may result in legal liability for sheriff's departments.
"Over 200 jurisdictions in this country now don’t honor any ICE detainers at all, and that's why I say we’ve become a de facto sanctuary state," Jones said.
Sanctuary cities, like San Francisco, have recently come under fire for not cooperating with the federal government after an undocumented immigrant with prior felony convictions and resulting deportations was accused in the shooting death of Kathryn Steinle on a San Francisco pier.
"That may be part of their sanctuary where they don’t cooperate with ICE at all, we do cooperate with ICE to the extent we can," Jones said.
Jones said if the same person accused of killing Steinle were jailed in Sacramento, which is not a sanctuary city, for a previous crime, he would have been processed and released under a similar timeline.
"If that same person were scheduled to be released here, we would not have honored that request to keep him one minute past release on local charges," Jones said.
ICE Communications Director Virginia Kice sent this statement to FOX40:
“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) continues to work cooperatively with our local law enforcement partners throughout the country to develop policies and procedures that best represent all agencies’ efforts to uphold public safety. The Department of Homeland Security is in the process of implementing a new initiative called the Priority Enforcement Program - PEP for short - which supports community policing while ensuring ICE takes custody of dangerous criminals before they are released into the community."
"ICE is now issuing detainers and requests for notification with respect to individuals who meet our heightened enforcement priorities under PEP to ensure individuals who pose a threat to public safety are not released from prisons or jails into our communities. PEP is a balanced, common-sense approach, that places the focus where it should be: on criminals and individuals who threaten the public safety. ICE is committed to working with its law enforcement partners in the northern California and nationwide to achieve that mission.”
"PEP is solely an ICE initiative. Local law enforcement agencies do not “sign-up.” Instead, as part of PEP, ICE explains its revised priorities to local law enforcement agencies and encourages them to take advantage of the services, procedures and safeguards offered by ICE to maximize public safety in their communities. The local law enforcement agency determines how it's best able to help ICE target its priorities and accomplish its public safety mission, while still adhering to any local guidelines and policies governing how that local agency is able to work with immigration officials."