By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Sheriff details how 84 lawbreakers were taken by ICE
• Handful of social activists urge Dirkse to ignore federal immigration authorities
dirkse portrait
Stanislaus County Sheriff Jeff Dirkse

Stanislaus County Sheriff Jeff Dirkse reported that his department turned over 84 lawbreakers last year who illegally came into the country over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials.

Dirkse delivered his report on his department’s referrals to ICE during last week’s community forum required by the Truth Act, which was 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 harming or injuring a child, assault, serious drug offenses, illegal weapons possession and grand theft.

“In 2018, the single biggest category was child abuse – harming or injuring of a child,” said the sheriff. “There were 13 individuals who met that criteria under that law that we were allowed to turn over to ICE.

Assault includes domestic violence and battery on a peace officer or citizens.

ICE gets notified of someone in the Sheriff’s Department jail facility through fingerprinting uploaded to the FBI data base. If ICE is interested in a particular inmate, ICE contacts the jail.

“Again, I want to emphasize that ICE initiates that contact, not us,” said Dirkse.

If ICE wants to place a detainer, the department checks to see if they have a prior conviction that allows cooperation with ICE under SB 54. That being the case the detainer may be placed. If no prior convictions, the Sheriff’s Department may evaluate on the new charges by SB 54 standards. The state law forbids local law enforcement from placing a detainer if there is no prior conviction or if the new charge does not meet the standard outlined in SB 54.

“They (state legislators) have determined what laws we may cooperate with,” said the sheriff. “It’s nothing we do locally.”

In 2018 the county jail booked 19,323 individuals for crimes. A total of 363 ICE detainers were required and because of SB 54, only 220 were granted. But only 46 were released to ICE for deportation.

He gave a list of countries represented by the detained, the lion’s share (180) from Mexico and the next highest (6) from Vietnam.

In the first three quarters of this calendar year, Dirkse said his jail booked over 13,000 with 234 detainers requested and 146 detainers placed with 38 turned over to ICE.

A parade of individuals addressed the Board of Supervisors who suggested they want local officials to ignore federal immigration law.

Raquel Ortega of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California was the first to address supervisors and said she’s joined a coalition to get ICE out of the county. She mentioned how some counties like San Francisco and Humboldt have shut out ICE.

“San Joaquin County just north of here has not allowed ICE in jails or responded to any ICE detainers or notifications since 2017,” said Ortega. “Cooperating with ICE in the criminal system not only compounds existing inequities against people of color including immigrants who face already unequal rates of arrest, persecution and detention. Additionally, allowing local law enforcement to work with ICE creates confusion and often erodes trust between the Sheriff’s Department and communities of color.”

She said many illegal immigrants won’t report crimes out of fear of deportation.

Ortega expressed concern over reports that the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department shares automatic license plate reader data with ICE. She said Dirkse met with her group and has since disbanded the practice.

She asked the county to stop cooperating with federal immigration enforcement officials. Her request is not likely to happen given the Sheriff’s Department history of leadership that included recent Sheriff Adam Christianson who sat next to President Trump at a White House gathering last year on immigration and controversial sanctuary state and community laws.

Modesto attorney Patrick Kolasinski, who lost in his bid to become district attorney in 2017, said cooperating with ICE means some immigrants of illegal status won’t step forward as witnesses in criminal trials for fear of deportation. He cited one case in which he had to convince one individual to cooperate in court despite his fear.

Julissa Ruiz Ramirez of Hughson, a Stanislaus State student, asked the board to declare there will be no cooperation with ICE.

“Being in this space is intimidating, especially being in a room where the people that hold power are older white men,” said Ramirez. “And so I am here on behalf of all of my immigrant brothers and sisters that were too afraid to enter this room.”

She then read a poem written by a friend slamming the Trump Administration.

Elizabeth Talbott, a member of the Waterford City Council which contracts for law enforcement services through the Sheriff’s Department, said she was “concerned” about plans to install license plate readers along Highway 132 to catch violators.

“I can only assume it’s my white skin and privilege that I don’t have to worry about it,” said Talbott. She later said many in Waterford are not white and from indigenous roots and suggested “they didn’t cross the border, the border crossed them.”

Ryan Segoviano, a member of the Patterson School Board member, said detaining those who crossed the border illegally is “a disgrace.” He asked Stanislaus County to follow the example of larger counties in shutting out ICE.

Supervisors did not address the report or speakers’ comments.