Sheriff on ICE

State laws limiting cooperation with immigration officials put local safety in jeopardy, he says

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea presented a 2017 report on jail interactions with federal immigration officials to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday (Feb. 27). New laws make this work harder, he says.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea presented a 2017 report on jail interactions with federal immigration officials to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday (Feb. 27). New laws make this work harder, he says.

CN&R file photo

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea hasn’t changed his stance on laws limiting cooperation between his agency and ICE. To him, it seems to run counter to his overarching responsibility: to ensure residents of his jurisdiction are safe.

“We are talking about people who have been arrested for criminal activity and who potentially pose a threat to public safety,” he told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday (Feb. 27), not “individuals whose status in this country may be in violation of immigration law but who are out there working and making a living and obeying our laws.”

He was addressing the board as part of a mandatory update and public hearing on interactions between the jail and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials (ICE). He outlined the Truth Act, which took effect on Jan. 1, 2017, as well as the California Values Act (Senate Bill 54), which took effect this past January. Both affect the ability of his office to cooperate with ICE, he said. One thing that would solve most problems would be if ICE agents presented federal warrants for inmates in his custody, but that is generally not the case.

Proponents of SB 54 touted its protections for immigrants. Among them, preventing law enforcement from asking people about their immigration status and requiring policies at schools, health facilities and courthouses to limit assistance with immigration officials.

Most instances at the jail involve ICE agents requesting release-date information. In order to comply with new regulations, the jail now publishes release information on all inmates, “so ICE can just look that up itself,” Honea said. In other instances, when ICE wants to pick up the inmates and transfer custody, if the crime does not rise to the level of “serious” or “violent,” Honea said he’s forced to let the inmate go, at which point ICE can make its own arrest. That is less than ideal, he said.

“If I don’t have ability to cooperate with ICE and transfer custody, in my view that increases the risk to public safety,” Honea told the CN&R. “What ICE has told us is they’ll then go into our communities. They’ll look for the individual, but also if they find him with other individuals who are in the country in violation of immigration laws, they’ll take action against them as well. That’s the piece that causes me concern.”

In fact, that’s exactly what happened just this week throughout Northern California, where ICE arrested 150 alleged undocumented immigrants in a sweep. Just half of them had criminal convictions, according to CNN.

As part of his presentation, Honea delivered stats for 2017. Here are the highlights:

• ICE requested a hold or to release information in 34 cases (representing 31 individuals), out of 12,329 bookings in 2017.

• Of those, 11 were picked up at the jail by ICE.

• 19 were from Mexico, five from Thailand, two each from Laos and Romania, and one each from China, India, the Philippines and Scotland. Two were from the United States, prompting a question from Supervisor Maureen Kirk. “They were Hispanic individuals who were born in the United States,” a sheriff’s deputy explained. “ICE probably just wanted to interview them.”

• Just one of the inmates ICE was interested in was female.

• As of Dec. 31, one had been released on bail, for DUI; 11 were pending judgment; and 22 (eight misdemeanors and 14 felonies) were convicted.

• The worst crime committed by an undocumented immigrant was murder. That case involves 49-year-old Salvador Trejo of Mexico, who was involved in a home-invasion robbery in Palermo in 2013 in which one of his accomplices, Hector Gabriel, was shot in the head by the homeowner. Trejo was found guilty of murder and is pending sentencing. So, what will happen with Trejo, as it concerns ICE?

“That’s an interesting thing about SB 54,” Honea told the CN&R. That law did not include the state Department of Corrections. “We can be fairly certain he will be sentenced to state prison. So, he’ll be transferred to the California state prison system and he’ll serve whatever time he’s sentenced to, which would be years. At that time, he would be turned over to ICE by the California state prison system.”