The Monterey County Jail has faced criticism from immigrant rights groups for working closely with ICE. That’s federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. A new state law is forcing the county to change that practice.
Representatives from those immigrant rights groups stood with Sheriff Steve Bernal Monday as he made an announcement they’ve been waiting to hear.
“ICE will no longer have access to a desk inside our jail by the end of this week,” says Bernal.
The only way ICE agents will be allowed inside the Monterey County jail is if they have a warrant.
Bernal hopes it will lead to more trust with the migrant community. He says the main reason behind the change is SB 54, a new state law better known as the Sanctuary State Law. It takes effect January 1, 2018.
The law limits state and local law enforcement agencies from sharing information with ICE. Monterey County Supervisor Luis Alejo says the problem he saw was immigrants’ with minor offenses getting deported.
“And forever separated from their children and their spouses. That had an enormous impact on the entire family,” Alejo says.
Monterey County has a large population of undocumented immigrants, primarily because of the Ag industry. Norm Groot is Executive Director of the Monterey County Farm Bureau.
“We need those hands to harvest our food and our failed national policy hasn’t recognized that yet. So as a leader here in Monterey County or in California, maybe we can build some critical mass on a national level and finally solve this immigration issue,” says Groot.
Santa Cruz County already complies with the Sanctuary State Law.
KAZU contacted ICE to hear their position on SB 54. The agency emailed a statement from Acting Director Tom Homan.
"ICE will have no choice but to conduct at-large arrests in local neighborhoods and at worksites, which will inevitably result in additional collateral arrests, instead of focusing on arrests at jails and prisons where transfers are safer for ICE officers and the community. ICE will also likely have to detain individuals arrested in California in detention facilities outside of the state, far from any family they may have in California," Homan says.