Stanislaus County Sheriff Jeff Dirkse reported that in 2019 his department turned over 45 lawbreakers who were in the country illegally to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials.
Dirkse delivered his report on his department’s referrals to ICE during last week’s Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors’ meeting in a community forum required by the Truth Act, passed into law by Democrats in Sacramento through AB 2792. The act gives jailed illegal immigrants the “right to know” when ICE requests to interview them to gauge eligibility for deportation and be able to deny interview requests.
Controversial SB 54, also passed along party lines with the Democrat majority overruling, restricts how law enforcement may deal with ICE but does not prohibit interaction, Dirkse told supervisors. Interactions must relate to persons accused of specific list of about 50 serious crimes and felonies. Those crimes include murder, rape, robbery, harming or injuring a child, assault, serious drug offenses, illegal weapons possession and grand theft.
“We do not ever proactively contact ICE,” Sheriff Dirkse told supervisors. “They contact us.”
He explained that when someone is arrested they are photographed and fingerprinted with that information going into a database accessible by other law enforcement agencies, including the federal Drug Enforcement Agency and ICE.
The process approved by the state Legislature allows only detainers to be placed on those who were previously arrested and convicted of a crime. Arrestees who have not ever been arrested or convicted before but picked up for a new charge involving any of the 50 serious crimes listed may have a temporary ICE detainer placed on them, Dirkse said.
Of the 20,171 arrests in Stanislaus County during 2019, the Sheriff’s Department released to ICE 40 Mexican nationals living illegally in the United States, one from Nepal, one from Fiji and one from Guatemala.
In 2018, the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department released 46 in custody to ICE. Forty-one were Mexican nationals and six from Vietnam and two from El Salvador.
“We are kind of right in line where we have been historically,” said Dirkse.
The sheriff said he is asked a lot why ICE doesn’t come get the vast majority of those requested to be detained. Dirkse explained that for those who have been convicted and serving time in the jail, they can be turned over to ICE within the last 365 days of their sentence. If ICE doesn’t show up before they are released, the county cannot hold them.
“I can’t explain to you why ICE does or does not come and get some or them or all of them; that is totally on them.”
The top crimes committed by those for whom ICE has requested detainers, in order, are: serious drug offenses, including sales; domestic assaults, auto theft, possession of a weapon and sex crimes, mostly involving child molestation.
Dirkse noted that because last year’s board hearing attracted a lot of concerned citizens – some who called for the county to declare itself a sanctuary county – that this year he held a number of community forums to take comment. Those forums occurred in west Modesto, south Turlock and Waterford but COVID pre-empted meetings scheduled in Riverbank and Patterson. No rescheduling dates have been set up.
Supervisor Terry Withrow said he appreciated Dirkse’s efforts to reach out to the community to correct the “misnomer” and the “hype that’s out there” about the counties and ICE.
“I think the other key thing that everyone has to remember is that the state Legislature also agreed that there are certain offenses, those that are delineated under SB 54 for which we can still turn someone over (to ICE),” said Dirkse. “This is not us doing something rogue. We are simply following state law.”