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In the News: Crowd voices opposition to Marin interaction with ICE

December 8, 2018

Originally posted: Marin IJ, https://www.marinij.com/2018/12/07/crowd-voices-opposition-to-marin-interaction-with-ice/

By RICHARD HALSTEAD | rhalstead@marinij.com | Marin Independent Journal PUBLISHED: December 7, 2018 at 4:33 pm | UPDATED: December 8, 2018 at 6:34 am

A crowd of more than 250 people packed a three-hour Marin County Board of Supervisors’ hearing Thursday to deliver an unequivocal message: The Marin sheriff should not cooperate in any way with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Some noted that though Sheriff Robert Doyle has said he’ll change some of the jail’s practices, the changes don’t go far enough.

“We must stop cooperating with ICE,” said the Rev. Theresa Novak, an affiliated minister with the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Marin and one of dozens who spoke. “We must stop publishing those damn release dates. We must provide a sanctuary here for all who are vulnerable.”

The meeting was prompted by the so-called Truth Act, signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in September 2016, which requires local governing bodies in which law enforcement has provided ICE access to an individual to hold a community forum to receive and consider public comment.

Prior to the 5:30 p.m. meeting, a citizens’ group calling itself Ice Out of Marin held a rally on a patch of grass next to the U.S. Post Office adjacent to the Civic Center.

“It’s to empower each other, to show community, to sing music, and have chants before we enter the space and face the sheriff and the Board of Supervisors and hold them accountable for what they’ve done to our undocumented Marin County residents,” said rally organizer Juan Prieto of Oakland.

In a preemptive move, Doyle announced on Nov. 30 he would no longer release inmate release date information to ICE unless the inmate has been charged with or convicted of a serious or violent crime.

At the beginning of Thursday’s meeting, Doyle said, “I like most people think what is coming out of the current administration, what they’re doing and what they’re saying, is pretty horrific and that is in part responsible for the change in policy.”

Doyle has said his decision was also influenced by discussions with San Rafael’s Canal Alliance and the Immigrant Legal Resource Center of San Francisco.

Lucia Martel-Dow, director of immigration and social services at Canal Alliance, said, “I have to tell the people here today, I have been very surprised by how transparent the sheriff and his team have been with us.”

When someone is arrested, their fingerprints are fed into a national law enforcement database, which ICE uses to identify individuals it wants to take into custody. Before the sheriff’s policy change, ICE would request notification of when the individual was due to be released so agents could take the person into custody at that time, and the sheriff’s office complied.

Doyle said that in 2017, ICE asked for the release dates of 137 inmates in Marin County Jail and actually arrested 68 of them. He said that so far in 2018, ICE has asked for the release dates of 172 inmates and arrested 65 of them.

Doyle said ICE sometimes asks to interview Marin inmates. He said ICE requested to interview 27 inmates in 2017 and 21 inmates so far in 2018, but has not actually interviewed any of them. Inmates may decline to be interviewed and most have, Doyle said.

Before supervisors opened the meeting for general public comment, Martel-Dow and Grisel Ruiz, a staff attorney with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, provided some background on why the immigrant community is so concerned about local law enforcement’s interaction with ICE.

Martel-Dow said 18 percent of Marin residents are immigrants and 44 percent of them are Latino. She said about 6 percent of Marin residents are undocumented immigrants and approximately 85 percent of the people being deported are Latino. She also said that 54 percent of the people ICE has apprehended in Marin were taken into custody as a result of local incarceration.

Martel-Dow and Ruiz highlighted one area in which the Marin County Sheriff’s Office continues to be more accommodating with ICE than they would like. Marin County allows ICE to pick up individuals in the booking area of the jail, a private section of the jail not open to the general public.

Martel-Dow said San Francisco and Santa Clara counties do not permit this while other counties — Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and Sonoma — only follow this procedure if the inmate has been charged with a violent or serious crime as defined by Senate Bill 54. Doyle said he formerly required ICE to apprehend individuals in the jail lobby after their release; but he said that resulted in altercations and sometimes put the people who came to pick them up at risk.

Martel-Dow and Ruiz did not focus on perhaps a more substantive issue: the fact that the sheriff’s office posts booking information, including release dates, on its website.

Doyle said he is required by law to release public information and that posting release information on the website is a community service both for the friends and family of people who are incarcerated as well as for anyone they may have victimized.

Contacted Friday, Martel-Dow said other California counties post booking information online. She said some require the name of the inmate or the inmate’s jail number to access the information. “The practices vary in California,” Martel-Dow said.

At Thursday’s hearing, Laura Eberly, who said she was speaking on behalf of Ice Out of Marin, recited a list of demands that included having the sheriff stop posting booking information online or allowing ICE into the booking area to pick up inmates. She called on Marin supervisors to force the sheriff to make these changes if necessary.

At the beginning of the meeting, Marin County Counsel Brian Washington briefed the audience on the Board of Supervisors’ legal limitations when it comes to dictating to the sheriff how to do his job.

“It’s not true,” said Stephen Bingham of San Rafael. “You set the budget for the sheriff. You could explicitly say no dime of this county is going to pay for the website until he takes the release dates off of it.”

Several speakers told moving personal stories. Alejandro Lopez said he was born in Marin but grew up in Mexico. His father came to the U.S. from Mexico to earn money for the family. “I came to live with my father six years ago,” Lopez said. “I didn’t speak the language. I was constantly worried that we would get deported.”

Lopez said six months ago his father was deported.

“I was left behind with bills to pay,” he said, “and would have ended up homeless if it hadn’t been for the help of community members.”

Only one speaker during the three-hour hearing expressed support for the sheriff assisting ICE in apprehending undocumented immigrants.

“Sheriff Doyle, do your job and enforce the law and get illegal criminals out of our community,” said Adrian Ivancevich, who persisted despite boos and catcalls.

Ivancevich, who said he is criminal prosecutor, said while Senate Bill 54 allows law enforcement officers to cooperate with ICE if inmates have been charged with or convicted of committing a serious or violent crime, the list of crimes is inadequate.

Ivancevich said the list does not include second-degree burglary, auto theft, felony hit-and-run, felony drunk driving, domestic violence, corporal injury to a child, several sex offenses including sexual battery, pimping, pandering and child pornography.

At the meeting’s end, only Supervisor Damon Connolly indicated he wanted to see the sheriff amend his policies further.

“As I’ve discussed with Sheriff Doyle, I would like to see further policy change,” Connolly said. “The warm hand-off of a person to ICE in the booking area before the person is released has the effect of an in-custody transfer in my view. ICE should conduct its business outside the jurisdiction of the sheriff without any help from the sheriff’s office.”

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