San Luis Obispo County officials held a public hearing this week about U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) access to people arrested and held at the county jail. The California TRUTH Act, aimed at bringing transparency to local law enforcement participation with ICE, requires a community forum be held once a year.
County sheriff Ian Parkinson spoke to the board of supervisors about changes the sheriff’s department has made since November 2017. Prior to that date, Parkinson said jail staff faxed foreign-born inmate information twice daily to ICE.
And until the past few years, “we had ICE in the jail several days a week,” Parkinson said. “It was pre-TRUST, pre-TRUTH and pre-54.”
Parkinson was referring to 2014’s California TRUST Act, 2016’s TRUTH (Transparent Review of Unjust Transfers and Hold) Act and Senate Bill 54, which is California’s “sanctuary state” law. SB 54 stops local law enforcement agencies from spending money or staff time working on immigration enforcement, and went into effect in January of this year.
At the forum, Parkinson told the county supervisors—and the handful of community members in attendance—the only way ICE can receive inmate information now is through public records and national fingerprint databases.
Before last November, the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Department handed over 87 inmates to ICE after they were released, and held 67 inmates in jail longer so that they could be transferred to ICE.
“[The forum] was really to show to our compliance with the law changes,” Parkinson said.
The meeting also allowed residents to ask the sheriff questions about ICE. Those questions included inquires about what happens to undocumented inmates when they get out of jail. Others, like Gina Whitaker, wanted to know how the county could get more people involved in the next forum.
“I would love to see it be held when most people are not at work, not between to big holidays,” Whitaker said.
Written into the TRUTH Act is a requirement that the county holds “at least one community forum...open to the public, in an accessible location, and with at least 30 days’ notice to provide information to the public about ICE’s access to individuals and to receive and consider public comment.”
Whitaker said she wanted immigration rights organizations to help plan the next forum. Parkinson and the board agreed they would like to see it larger next year, and Parkinson said he’d try to slate it for summer of 2019.