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Ahead of Forum, Immigrant Advocates Say San Diego Sheriff Is Breaking The Law

San Diego County Sheriff William D. Gore at the Sheriff's Department headquar...

Photo by Nicholas McVicker

Above: San Diego County Sheriff William D. Gore at the Sheriff's Department headquarters in Kearny Mesa on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020.

Before a public forum on the interaction between local law enforcement and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), immigrant advocates held a car caravan in front of the County Administration Building on Tuesday, demanding that Sheriff Bill Gore stop transferring detainees from San Diego jails to ICE custody.

Many of those advocates believe the sheriff is in violation of state law, which limits cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities.

Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler.

Three years ago, in the months following the election of Donald Trump, state legislators passed SB 54, a bill meant to curb local law enforcement’s cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

In response, Gore changed some of his department’s practices to comply with the law. For example, there have been fewer transfers directly to ICE custody.

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

The sheriff's department, however, also began posting the names and release dates of detainees online, making it easier for ICE to find and arrest them. The department said it made that decision to “provide an up-to-date indicator of an individual's release status to the public.”

"This is something that is not unusual, he does this all of the time in circumvention of California law,” said Geneviéve Jones-Wright, the executive director of Community Advocates for Just and Moral Governance (MoGo).

Jones-Wright represents a Mexican man who was arrested by San Diego police while at work last fall. His charges were almost immediately dropped — but when he was released from county jail two days later, ICE agents were waiting for him.

The sheriff's department had posted his name and release date on its website.

The man, whose name is being protected out of concern of retaliation from the sheriff’s department, now faces possible deportation and separation from his two children who are US citizens.

“When we have a Sheriff, like Sheriff Gore, who implement such policies to evade state law, every single charge has immigration consequences for our undocumented community members,” Jones-Wright said.

According to California law, local law enforcement must give annual updates to the public on its interactions with federal immigration authorities. Last year, the forum was held in the middle of the day. That made it inaccessible to many working immigrants who wanted to discuss interactions with immigration enforcement. Supervisors Nathan Fletcher and Greg Cox moved this year’s forum to the evening.

“I want the immigrant community to know that the job of local law enforcement is to protect all who live here, not to be an appendage or aid to federal immigration authorities. That’s the state law and we want to see it fulfilled,” Fletcher told KPBS.

With a new, Democratic majority coming to the board of supervisors in the new year, Fletcher believes the county will continue to shift its treatment toward immigrants, offering more accountability when it comes to law enforcement and its relationship to immigration officials.

The forum begins at 5 p.m. Tuesday. Members of the public can participate or virtually attend here.


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