The northern California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has sued the Sacramento sheriff’s department for colluding with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials in violation of state law. The lawsuit states Sheriff Scott Jones’ “policy and practice of transferring immigrants to ICE” after they’ve already served their time violates “landmark” laws California Values Act and TRUST Act.
“The Sacramento Sheriff’s Office is inflicting this illegal practice upon people who are eligible to return to their home and communities under state law. If not for their country of origin, they would not be enduring this cruel double punishment,” ACLU Foundation of Northern California Senior Staff Attorney Sean Riordan said in a statement. “This lawsuit shows that California must outlaw all local cooperation with ICE. It’s still too easy for local officials with an anti-immigrant agenda to find ways to exploit the law and harm our communities.”
Under the California Values Act (also known as SB 54), local law enforcement agencies are “sharply” limited as to when they can transfer someone to federal immigration officials, the statement said. But the lawsuit states the sheriff’s department has violated law by conducting “shadow transfers” that try to go around law by handing immigrants over to ICE “mere steps outside the gates of its jails.”
“ICE knows when to wait outside [Rio Consumnes Correctional Center’s] gates to arrest people because sheriff’s officials notify ICE when they expect to release someone whom ICE wants to arrest,” the statement said.
The ACLU Foundation of Northern California, which filed the lawsuit alongside co-counsel Conrad, Metlitzky, and Kane LLP on behalf of Sacramento resident Misael Echeveste and nonprofit community groups United Latinos and NorCal Resist, said that the sheriff’s department “strategized ways to evade the law’s limitations on transfers” immediately after SB 54 went into effect. It was signed into law by former Gov. Jerry Brown in late 2017. The lawsuit states that at one point, Jones held a press conference with one of the previous president’s acting ICE directors to push against the legislation.
The sheriff’s department also “developed an illegal notification system reflected in internal documents such as an ‘ICE Log Book,’ which demonstrates that sheriff’s deputies regularly notify ICE of a person’s release date and time, in violation of California law,” the group continued. Among immigrants unlawfully handed over to ICE has been Echeveste, who should have been released after serving time for a misdemeanor offense. “Echeveste remembers that, a few days before his scheduled release from the RCCC, sheriff’s deputies told him he was getting released early,” the ACLU Foundation of Northern California said, noting that deputies even congratulated him.
But deputies instead handed him not his street clothes, but an ICE uniform. Echeveste said deputies laughed and mocked him. “As a result of the ICE transfer, he is now fighting deportation to Mexico—a country he does not know, and where he has no family or personal contacts,” the ACLU Foundation of Northern California said. Echeveste has lived in the U.S. for more than two decades now. He has not lived in Mexico since he was 4 years old.
“Through this lawsuit, I hope to give a voice to other people who are going through this situation, other people who might not know English as well as me, since I was raised out here in California,” he said in the statement. “Just because we weren’t born here doesn’t mean we’re not human and that we’re not deserving of rights. I’m very lucky to have a lot of help in fighting this, and I want other people to be able to fight for their rights too.”
”A number of California counties have stopped all ICE transfers from local jails—including San Francisco, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, San Joaquin, Santa Cruz, Humboldt, and Contra Costa—to come into compliance with these laws,” the ACLU Foundation of Northern California continued. Just this month, the San Mateo sheriff’s department said it would stop collaborating with ICE. Sheriff Carlos Bolanos in a statement directly credited the community’s fight. “It simply is not worth losing the trust of many members of the public by continuing to process these requests from ICE. Our policy is now consistent with other Bay Area counties.”
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