The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department has proposed changes to its partnership with federal immigration authorities that will modify the program to allow immigration detainers only for those who have been convicted of serious, specified crimes.
The county Board of Supervisors will vote Tuesday on the revised version of the program more commonly referred to as 287g, after a specific section of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The 287g program is employed in county detention facilities to work in conjunction with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to identify criminals who are in the country without proper authorization. After extensive community outreach and meetings with federal officials, Sheriff John McMahon chose to amend the language in the 287g memorandum of agreement to adhere to the requirements of Assembly Bill No. 4, also known as the Trust Act.
“We feel this is a great compromise that meets the needs of public safety and also addresses the concerns of those in the community,” Sheriff John McMahon said.
Pending approval by the Board of Supervisors, the revised 287g program would allow an immigration detainer to be placed on subjects who have been convicted of a serious or violent felony; convicted of a felony punishable by state prison; previously been convicted of felonies specified in the Trust Act; or convicted in the past five years of a misdemeanor for a crime that can be punished as a felony (also known as a “wobbler.”)
Sheriff McMahon initially opposed the Trust Act because of concerns it would put the Sheriff’s Department in a position to have to choose whether to enforce state or federal law. After successful discussions with federal officials and community leaders, it became clear the San Bernardino County Sheriff Department could enact the letter of the new state law without endangering the spirit of the federal law. The conciliation came in large part because of a history of successful collaboration with immigration officials. The result of the compromise is the agenda item supervisors will have before them Tuesday morning.
The 287g program has been employed by the Sheriff’s Department for roughly seven years. The previous memorandum of agreement allowed detainers to be placed on subjects who had been booked for any crime, and expired this year. The county Board of Supervisors voted to approve the most recent memorandum of agreement with ICE in September but the contract was never officially ratified by federal officials. Department legal counsel pulled the agreement in October and amended the language to ensure the new agreement would fall in line with the Trust Act.
The only time in which the immigration status comes into play for any individual is after the subject has been arrested for a crime not related to immigration status. Once in custody, trained custody personnel interview the subject and analyze the individual case. If the subject meets the criteria for a detainer, their information is forwarded to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The Sheriff’s Department has no role in the deportation hearings or process.
On average, about 70,000 people are booked into county jail facilities in a month. Only 185 detainers, on average, were placed monthly under the former program. In comparison with the number of people who are booked into county detention facilities, those who are subject to 287g detainers are a miniscule percentage.
Despite the tiny percentage of overall bookings, Sheriff’s Department statistics show 50% of the charges related to the 287g detainers were felonies. Of those booked on felony charges 36% were drug-related; 16% were robbery, theft or stolen property related; 10% were for domestic violence; and another 6% were for child abuse or molestation. Other felony detainers were issued for charges of murder, rape, manslaughter, kidnapping, chop shops, sodomy, indecent exposure, penetration with a foreign object and firearms violations.
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