REDWOOD CITY – San Mateo County Sheriff Carlos Bolanos on Tuesday said his agency will no longer respond to requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for notification of an inmate’s release or transfer any inmate to ICE’s custody.
The decision follows last week’s TRUTH Act Forum, a special meeting required when local law enforcement has given ICE access. At the meeting, Bolanos and the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors heard from 60-plus people about how the policy has negatively impacted families.
“Sheriff Bolanos has finally heeded the calls of impacted families and community members who have been speaking out against ICE transfers for years,” the San Mateo County Coalition for Immigrant Rights said in a statement.
“We’re in solidarity with those who have suffered irreparable harm due to San Mateo County’s devastating and unnecessary ICE transfer policy,” the statement continued. “There is no going back for our loved ones who were deported and their families who will have an empty seat at the table during the holidays. The sheriff and board owe it to these families to make this policy permanent and stop ICE transfers for good.”
In a statement, Bolanos said it had become apparent to him that complying with the requests from ICE was “undermining the trust we need to protect the community.”
“It simply is not worth losing the trust of many members of the public by continuing to process these requests from ICE,” Bolanos said. “Our policy is now consistent with other Bay Area counties. This change is being made after we heard from hundreds of residents who shared their perspective on how we will all be safer when the entire community understands the sheriff’s office is here to protect the public, not enforce immigration laws.”
According to the immigrant rights coalition, the sheriff’s office has transferred at least 119 people to ICE over the past three years. In 2020, San Mateo County accounted for 74% of the total number of people transferred to ICE for all nine Bay Area counties, the group said.
In a news release, the San Mateo County Manager’s Office said the sheriff’s office coordinated 15 transfers to ICE from county jail last year. The office also noted that most individuals convicted of serious felonies serve their sentences in state prison, not county jail.
“If ICE believes an individual poses a serious threat, it can always obtain a judicial warrant, which all law enforcement agencies in the Bay Area must honor,” the county said.
ICE did not immediately return a message seeking comment on the sheriff’s decision.
The change in policy was welcomed by Board of Supervisors President David Canepa.
“This is a momentous and compassionate decision by our sheriff to end cooperation with ICE. He listened to the community and values all our residents regardless of immigration status,” Canepa said in a statement. “This is a policy change that will keep families whole and I applaud Sheriff Bolanos for taking this action.”
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Author: Jason Green