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Two Years Later, Loopholes Remain In California’s Sanctuary Law

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer is pictured in this undate...

Credit: Associated Press

Above: A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer is pictured in this undated photo.

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Two years later, compliance with California’s “sanctuary state” is a mixed-bag, according to a new report.

Aired: November 1, 2019 | Transcript

A new report looks at how local law enforcement is complying with California’s “sanctuary state” law, two years after its passage. The law, known as SB 54, was meant to limit local law enforcement’s cooperation with federal immigration authorities like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Two years later, compliance with the law in San Diego is a mixed bag, according to Felicia Gomez, a policy analyst with the California Immigrant Policy Center, who co-authored the report.

“In practice, we still see ICE continues to have unfettered access to county jails, unfettered access to people in county jails, which raises a lot of concerns about what kind of information is being shared,” Gomez told KPBS.

Since the law went into effect, the sheriff’s department here in San Diego has decreased the number of notifications it has sent to ICE that it has an undocumented person in custody. But it has also begun posting publicly the release dates of all people from county jail, making it easy for ICE to make arrests without needing direct cooperation from the sheriff.

It's loopholes like this that Gomez wants to focus on.

RELATED: A Year Into California’s ‘Sanctuary’ Law, Not All Police Departments’ Policies Reflect Its Changes

“For us as advocates, recognizing that release dates are now publicly available, some of them go very much into detail, such as posting photos of individuals, exact time, exact location. It makes it very easy for ICE to go find the person they want to pick up, and pick them up either in the parking lot or the release area of the jail,” Gomez said.

The sheriff’s department was one of the first law enforcement agencies in the county to update its policies to conform to SB54. But Gomez said its practices have not changed all that much.

“In practice, we still see ICE continues to have unfettered access to county jails, unfettered access to people in county jails, which raises a lot of concerns about what kind of information is being shared,” Gomez said.

In a written statement, the San Diego Sheriff’s Department said it began posting release dates in November 2018 to “provide an up-to-date indicator of an individual's release status to the public.” They say the decision was unrelated to SB 54.

The sheriff's department also says it is still allowing ICE to use workspaces in county jails.

Gomez said her organization is continuing to work with the sheriff’s department to bring it into full compliance with the law, and that the law, even without full implementation, has been effective.

“We are seeing a significant decrease in the number of people that local law enforcement agencies are notifying to ICE,” Gome said. “So for us, that’s one way in which we are cutting off the arm of the deportation machine and how it functions.”

Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler.

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Max Rivlin-Nadler
Speak City Heights Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover City Heights, a neighborhood at the intersection of immigration, gentrification, and neighborhood-led health care initiatives. I'm interested in how this unique neighborhood deals with economic inequality during an unprecedented global health crisis.

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