Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Forum Addresses Controversial Collaboration with ICE

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Dominick Ojeda
Multimedia Beat Reporter

On Tuesday, Dec. 4, the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department held its annual public forum regarding their collaboration with ICE agents in Santa Maria, amidst protest against the two agencies working together.

After Santa Barbara Sheriff Bill Brown gave his presentation to the Santa Barbara Board of Supervisors, Vice President of SBCC Board of Trustees Jonathan Abboud presented a petition against the Sheriff Department collaborating with ICE.

The petition states, “[the signers] believe that is is an impediment to public safety and trust with law enforcement to continue working with ICE.” The petition contains more than 40 signatures, including of A.S. Senators Zion Solomon, Melissa Perez, and Ashley Ng, along with A.S. President Brooke Kopel and EVPLA Jeike Meijer.

Outside of the administration building, a few community organizers and organization leaders gathered, chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho, ICE has got to go.”  Their protest specifically focused on Who’s in Custody, a public database the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department’s recently created that shows who has been convicted of a crime in jail and when they are being released.

Similar forms of this database are also available for San Luis Obispo county, San Diego county, Orange County, and many other counties in California, along with one statewide. By making all inmate release dates public, ICE is able to search the release dates of individuals they believe to be undocumented.

As of 2016, the TRUTH Act requires that if a law enforcement agency collaborates with ICE, they must hold a public forum about what kind of information ICE has access to. They are also required to obtain a written consent from the inmate, explaining the reason for the interview process and that the interview with ICE is voluntary and may be declined.

The TRUTH Act is one of three recent bills that has been passed through the California legislature that protects undocumented people. The other two are the TRUST Act in 2014 and the VALUES Act (SB54) passed in 2017, which prohibits using immigration agents as interpreters, asking about immigration status, or notifying ICE of release dates, unless they are already made available.

Frank Rodriguez, the Santa Barbara community organizer at CAUSE, believes that Who’s in Custody is in direct response to SB54. Rodriguez argued that this is an effort to undermine the bill and continue law enforcement and ICE cooperation in Santa Barbara County.

However, Sheriff Brown stated that the database has been in progress for years before this bill was introduced, and that it is a complete coincidence that it came out the same time as the passing of SB54.

The protestors hope to keep the Santa Barbara Sheriff department accountable for their collaboration with ICE and to rather be united by humanity than separated by borders. Rev. Julia Hamilton, Vice President of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE) Santa Barbara, stated we should demand, “justice that is deserved, not the justice that is imprinted on us.”

According to the incarceration data Sheriff Brown presented to the board of directors, Santa Barbara county had 15,241 inmates during 2017, of which ICE asked for information on 526 and picked up 351 possible undocumented inmates. So far in 2018, of the 11,551 inmate in Santa Barbara county, ICE has asked for information on 390 and picked up 74.