Report Back from Santa Clara County Public Safety Committee Meeting Discussing Detainer Policy

By Cesar Flores

Today’s Public Safety Committee meeting on Wednesday October 12, 2011 was to consider recommendations from the Office of the County Counsel on behalf of the Civil Detainer Task Force and consider added recommendations from Chairperson Supervisor Shirakawa on proposed county policies relating to civil immigration detainers.

The meeting began with public comments. Most of the comments that were expressed had some sort of relation to the need to better protect immigrants, and reduce ICE’s presence and accessibility to our county’s criminal justice system. Jill Malone of People Acting in Community Together, told the committee, “ There are over 1000 residents that have been deported in this last year, that is 1000 families torn apart.”

As they spoke about the recommendations from the Office of the County Counsel, Supervisor Shirakawa commended our county because, “we work hard and we lead.” He also was critical of ICE’s way of operating in our county, stating they were, “Following their interests at the expense of not only us the county but the community as well.” Supervisor Wasserman talked about how “this is a complex and emotional issue” ultimately siding with Shirakawa .on a major part of the recommendation (item #5) saying that this recommendation is “the best of both worlds” Consequently, that item, which states that detainer requests will only apply to post conviction serious and violent felonies, will go forward to the full board with a 2-0 vote.

Supervisor Wasserman, at this stage, did not uphold Supervisor Shirakawa’s added recommendation to ask the federal government reimburse the county for detainer costs. Wasserman stated that, “the ideal recommendation would be that it wouldn’t cost us any money and keep the bad guys out.” Shirakawa explained why that is not an accurate depiction of the proposal, and Wasserman was open more fully consider the recommendation at the full board meeting. Agreeing that that particular recommendation would go to the full board with a one and one vote, Shirakawa also stated,  “ICE says their priority is to seek out dangerous and violent offenders, but their numbers don’t reflect that.” He went on to say that our criminal justice system already has several safeguards to prevent criminals from being in the streets and the county should not be using county resources to do the job of ICE. “They have the ability to pay it for themselves, and they should,” he said, pointing to the new financial responsibilities of the county under the realignment plan. He stated the county should prioritize their funds wisely.

Both items will be heard by the full Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors at their next meeting on Tuesday October 18, 2011.

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