Calif. sheriff to publicize inmate releases to help ICE find immigrants

A California sheriff’s department opposed to the state’s new sanctuary city law announced Monday that it would publicize inmate release dates to help federal immigration agents find immigrants without legal status.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department will now include the date and time of inmates’ release in an existing online database, the Orange County Register reported Monday.

While the update will apply to all county inmates, Undersheriff Don Barnes said the ultimate goal is to assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 

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“This is in response to SB-54 limiting our ability to communicate with federal authorities and our concern that criminals are being released to the street when there’s another avenue to safeguard the community by handing them over [to ICE for potential deportation],” Barnes said.

SB-54, also known as the California Values Act, prohibits local agencies from sharing information with federal immigration authorities.

Annie Lai, co-director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic at University of California Irvine, slammed the sheriff’s new policy, saying it is meant to “undermine or get around the spirit of SB-54.”

The law allows for communication between local and federal agencies about release dates for those convicted of crimes that may be eligible for deportation, Lai said.

Orange County officials did not discuss the change with ICE beforehand, according to the Register, and a spokeswoman for the agency declined to comment “beyond what the Sheriff has said.” 

California officials have been battling the federal government over immigration.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions sued California over three laws passed last year in response to the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement measures.

Local officials are also battling each other over the laws and how each municipality will handle immigration enforcement.

Last week, the city council of Los Alamitos, located in Orange County, voted to opt out of the state’s California Values Act.