Mercury News: Dave Cortese, Molly O’Neal and Cynthia Hunter: Santa Clara County should keep current immigration policy

cubanologyOPEDBelow is an op-ed authored by a powerful collective of civic leaders in Santa Clara County that just appeared in the Mercury News.  We thank Supervisor Dave Cortese, Public Defender Molly O’Neal and Executive Director of the Domestic Violence Advocacy Consortium Cynthia Hunter for courageously standing up to protect our policy.

We are asking folks to please share and add your support through online comments. Please know that when it comes to immigration issues, those who want to change the policy will be likely very active on the comment box. One approach is to accept that, and pay it no mind, but if you would like to engage on behalf of the beliefs espouse by the op-ed, please do. We have to let our leaders know they are supported by the public when they champion our positions. Thank you!

You can also email the Board of Supervisors to let them know to keep Santa Clara County’s Immigrant Detainer policy as is!

Mike Wasserman
George Shirakawa
Dave Cortese
Ken Yeager
Joe Simitian

Dave Cortese, Molly O’Neal and Cynthia Hunter: Santa Clara County should keep current immigration policy
There is nothing more valuable to public safety than community trust in local law enforcement because it establishes residents’ willingness to report crimes and to cooperate with police. But that trust will break down immeasurably in immigrant communities if residents face the debilitating fear of potential deportation.

This is especially true in Santa Clara County, where two-thirds of residents live in immigrant households. Thus, ensuring community trust and willingness to help law enforcement requires policies that recognize and protect the thousands of immigrant families who live here.

The civil immigration detainer policy enacted by the board of supervisors in 2011 has successfully rebuilt this community trust and has been celebrated by immigrant advocacy, public safety and civic leaders locally, statewide and nationally. Proposals to change the policy to detain nearly all people accused of committing a felony, or some misdemeanors, should be rejected.

The current policy states that the county will not honor civil detainers unless the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) reimburses the county for housing costs. Essentially, this means that the county does not divert local resources to ICE in order to help investigate potential civil immigration violations (detainer requests) without reimbursement; local criminal justice agencies can use those resources for local law enforcement.

The criminal justice system has effective fact-based mechanisms to decide when people should be released, including bail schedules, pretrial services and judges’ discretion. There is no data supporting the claim that these mechanisms do not work or that enforcing civil detainers reduces dangerous crime.

How would you feel if friends or family members were denied bail, or timely release from jail, even though a judge or jury acting within the judicial system had already approved their release? Given the separation of powers established by the Constitution, a legislative body such as the board should not be allowed to honor civil detainers that override the judicial powers of a judge or jury.

In the first year of the policy, organizations in our community coalition have seen a marked reduction of fear in immigrant communities. Members of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, a PACT (People Acting in Community Together) partner, are proclaiming drastically different feelings about law enforcement; they feel thankful for the officers they see in their neighborhoods.

“I’m now proud of the leaders of our county that say I should not be treated differently just because of my immigration status,” is what Ernesto, an undocumented parish leader, recently told his congregation.

Immigrant women supported through our network of domestic violence service providers are more willing to ask for help and speak to law enforcement if they know there is a separation between local police and federal immigration authorities.

At the state level, legislative initiatives such as the Trust Act acknowledge our county’s leadership by allowing each county to make its own local policy. Santa Clara County demonstrated that it is possible to develop groundbreaking policy that is responsive to the local community’s needs.

The Asian Law Caucus, California Immigrant Policy Center and National Day Laborer Organizing Network, co-sponsors of versions of the Trust Act, are among the organizations that signed our coalition’s letter urging the supervisors not to eliminate the current policy.

In our county of two-thirds immigrant households, we should continue to prioritize the community trust and safety that was built, and continues to be supported, by the board’s decision not to use local resources on federal civil immigration.

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