Community members in San Rafael’s Canal neighborhood announced a boycott of an upcoming meeting with the Marin County sheriff and board of supervisors due to the sheriff’s continued cooperation with federal immigration officials and the supervisors’ lack of meaningful action on the same issue over the past two years.
Latinos Unidos de Marin (LUMA), a grassroots organization of Canal neighborhood residents, and ICE Out of Marin, a coalition of social justice and immigration reform activists, said they will not promote or support the Transparent Review of Unjust Transfers and Holds (TRUTH) Act Forum in Marin on Tuesday, Dec. 1.
The TRUTH Act, state Assembly Bill 2792, requires a county to hold a community forum to receive and consider public comment if local law enforcement has provided U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) access to an individual in the past year. Marin County Sheriff Robert T. Doyle granted ICE access to many people during the last 12 months and continues to provide ICE with information about immigrants booked into the jail, whether or not they’ve been convicted of a crime.
The sheriff and board of supervisors received numerous public comments from Latinx residents, many of them undocumented immigrants, at the previous two forums; however, the sheriff and board have not seriously considered the community’s perspectives, according to LUMA and ICE Out of Marin.
“The community asked the supervisors to direct the sheriff to stop communication with ICE,” said community organizer Maite Duran, who works with LUMA. “The community’s voices were not heard. This forum will be another performative listening session and not much will happen afterwards.”
Supervisor Damon Connolly disagrees. The supervisors passed a resolution in mid-September which Connolly says made clear that the board does not want the sheriff “interacting or cooperating with ICE.”
Passage of the resolution has become a thorn in the side of LUMA and ICE Out of Marin, who claim it is an ineffective response. Indeed, the non-binding resolution which the supervisors passed in September “urges” the sheriff to take certain actions, but does not order him to do anything.
“We’ve been clear with our demands for a couple of years,” said Lisa Bennett, co-chair of ICE Out of Marin. “We want a sanctuary ordinance. Instead, the supervisors passed a sanctuary resolution, which has no teeth.”
When asked about the disagreement, Connolly said that “there is no difference between an ordinance and a resolution,” adding that the September resolution was “intended to reinforce values the supervisors have toward the immigrant community.”
“We can’t dictate the sheriff’s actions,” Connolly said. “The sheriff has independent ability to act in these instances based on constitutional authority.”
Not so, according to LUMA and ICE Out of Marin. The groups believe the supervisors can and should determine the sheriff’s interactions with ICE. Both cite a new state law, Assembly Bill 1185, passed in September, which authorizes the “county to establish a sheriff oversight board to assist the board of supervisors with those duties as they relate to the sheriff, either by action of the board of supervisors or through a vote of county residents.”
Even without the establishment of the oversight board, the Sheriff’s Office has reduced its cooperation with ICE and modified its policies since the 2017 passage of the California Values Act, Senate Bill 54, which prevents state and local resources from being used to assist federal immigration enforcement.
Sheriff staff no longer inquire about immigration status when carrying out their duties. The sheriff stopped responding to ICE requests regarding release dates for low-level offenders, though the same information is still readily available on the Marin County Sheriff’s website. In addition, the sheriff no longer allows ICE in jail booking areas to make arrests.
“ICE still gets reliable information from the Sheriff’s Office,” said Kevin Morrison, ICE Out of Marin spokesperson. “The Sheriff is very smart, very savvy, very political. He says, ‘we don’t offer anything to ICE that isn’t available to the public,’ but when they call, he gives them full cooperation.”
The Sheriff’s Office released some statistics in advance of Tuesday’s meeting. ICE arrested 27 Marin County inmates in 2019, which is 16 percent of the 171 detainer requests made by ICE. This year, ICE arrested nine inmates, 18 percent of ICE detainer requests, although the number may indeed be higher, as the Sheriff stopped tracking the arrests in mid-August.
Historically, the Sheriff’s Office allowed ICE to arrest individuals in the jail’s booking area. Beginning on Aug. 15, the Sheriff stopped allowing ICE officials inside the jail. These days, ICE arrests individuals outside of the jail and the Sheriff no longer keeps count.
Community groups fear the lack of tracking of ICE arrests may hide trends in the statistics, since the Sheriff does respond to some requests from the federal agency. It is within Doyle’s power to stop all cooperation, yet he chooses to continue to assist ICE. San Francisco County and Sonoma County, like many others in California, are both sanctuary counties and do not honor ICE detainers unless they are supported by judicial determination of probable cause or a judicial arrest warrant.
“The law allows the sheriff to use discretion when charges [as opposed to convictions] are being made,” Bennett said. “He’s the judge, jury and executioner of someone in jail on charges alone. The jail is the most prevalent source of deportation in the county.”
Connolly agrees that charges should not be used as a catalyst to share information with ICE and says the supervisors continue to push the issue with the sheriff. In addition, supervisors want to change access to the jail’s public booking online database by requiring the affirmative act of typing in an inmate’s name to access information. This will provide more protection to people who are booked into jail.
“These are tweaks the supervisors are making,” Duran said. “They are used to playing nice with the sheriff and aren’t willing to exercise their authority.”
Another controversy between the community groups and the supervisors occurred recently. Supervisor President Katie Rice and Supervisor Dennis Rodoni scheduled an online planning meeting for the forum with LUMA and other community members on Tuesday, Nov. 17; however, the supervisors failed to show up. Neglecting the preparatory meeting is indicative of the lack of respect with which the community is treated by supervisors, they say.
While the community groups appear to be at an impasse with the supervisors on the issue of ICE in Marin, Connolly hopes they will show up at the forum and continue to make their case.
“We have made progress with the sheriff through the past Truth Act Forums,” Connolly said Monday.
Unfortunately, the “limp” initiatives are not enough, according to Duran. LUMA wants the supervisors to see them as vital members of the community. They are in the workforce as indispensable workers and are the ones who got sick with Covid-19, she points out.
“The immigrant is being tossed away and not valued,” Duran said. “One person being deported sends a shock wave throughout the community. People think ‘I could be next.’ We want zero cooperation with ICE. The supervisors need to follow through.”