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Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach

For Immediate Release

IOLERO Recommends Changes to Sheriff's Policies on Immigration

Changes Aimed at Ensuring the Public Safety of All Communities

Santa Rosa,CA | March 31, 2017

The Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review & Outreach (IOLERO) today issued a report recommending that the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office change its policies to further limit cooperation with federal civil immigration enforcement. The 13-page report follows a similar recommendation last month by the IOLERO Community Advisory Council issued after a four month, community driven hearing process.

“Public and officer safety is best served by law enforcement policies that encourage reporting crimes, cooperation with criminal investigations, and protection of all communities in the County,” said Jerry Threet, Director of IOLERO. “Aspects of the Sheriff’s Office’s current policies around immigration work at cross purposes with those public safety goals and thus should be changed.”

The Sheriff’s Office’s current policies and practices include robust voluntary cooperation by the County Jail with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) in the civil enforcement of federal immigration laws. The jail’s cooperation, which is not mandated by federal law, includes providing ICE with release dates of immigrant inmates upon request, as well as allowing ICE access to an inmate’s detention file, or D-File. The D-File includes confidential information such as social security numbers and country of origin.

“The Sheriff’s Office has a reasonable policy goal in providing ICE with information on inmate release dates: protecting public safety,” said Threet. “However, because the policy applies to all inmates, regardless of whether they have been convicted or even charged with a crime, the policy does not serve that goal, but instead undermines it.”

The IOLERO report summarizes recent nationwide social science research and local community outreach, both of which conclude that when local law enforcement cooperates with federal civil immigration enforcement, immigrants do not cooperate with local law enforcement. The result is that members of immigrant communities fail to report crimes against them and refuse to cooperate with criminal investigations, resulting in areas where crime can proliferate. Immigrants then more frequently become victims of crime, become more alienated from the broader community, and thus create a negative cycle. Multiple studies also show that this cycle harms the local economy, as workers become less secure and economic activity goes down.

Threet elaborated, “Not only does this cycle harm local public and officer safety and the economy, it has real consequences for the lives of our immigrant families. During outreach to the local immigrant community, we heard heartbreaking stories of parents who were terrified that any interaction with local law enforcement might result in arrest for a minor violation, and deportation from the jail, leaving their spouse and children. We can and should do better.”

The policy changes recommended by IOLERO would limit jail cooperation with ICE enforcement to situations where an inmate had been convicted of a serious or violent felony within the 10 years prior to the request for cooperation. The report concludes that such a policy would protect public safety for all communities, while also fostering greater cooperation between local law enforcement and the local immigrant community, making everyone safer as a result.

Read the Director's Report and Community Advisory Council recommendations.