Sacramento County offers final account of its 20-year collusion with ICE

Though sheriff is no longer subletting jail to ICE, civil rights watchdogs worry about shadow collaboration

Thanks to the rhetoric of President Donald Trump, Sacramento County is finally out of the business of detaining undocumented immigrants for profit.

The Sheriff’s Department had been contracting with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to incarcerate suspected non-citizens at its jail facilities since 2000. But as the lucrative contract came up for renewal last year, a majority of the Board of Supervisors, citing Trump’s stepped-up enforcement efforts and disparaging comments about people from Central America and Africa, overruled Sheriff Scott Jones’ request to continue an arrangement that averaged $6 million every year.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, removed the last immigrants in its custody from Sacramento County by June 30, 2018.

On Oct. 8, supervisors received a final accounting of the county’s last seven months partnering with ICE. During that span, 384 men suspected of entering the country illegally were held at the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center near Elk Grove. The vast majority of detainees—301, or 78%—were classified as Hispanic, while 35 were listed as Asian.

But just because the Sheriff’s Department is no longer sub-letting its jail to ICE doesn’t mean civil rights watchdogs believe the two agencies have stopped collaborating. The ACLU of Northern California and Sacramento Immigration Coalition both questioned whether the Sheriff’s Department violated the California Values Act by illegally transferring people into the custody of federal immigration authorities.

Citing the Sheriff’s Department’s own admission that it transferred 26 people convicted of driving under the influence into ICE custody, the ACLU and SIC noted that state law forbids local law enforcement agencies from facilitating transfers for simple misdemeanors, which DUIs are often classified as. The ACLU is awaiting a response to a public records request for more information about the roughly two dozen transfers, but says the Sheriff’s Department claimed in an email that the transfers involved deportees with felony DUI convictions.

There are also lingering questions about how much free rein ICE agents have inside Sacramento’s jails to interview people with or without attorneys present, and how much communication transpires between the local and federal agencies.