ICE Responds To California 'Sanctuary' Law, Threatens More 'Collateral Arrests'

adelanto_inside.jpg
Detainees inside Adelanto Detention Center, California's largest immigrant detention center. (Photo by Julia Wick/LAist)

On Friday, a day after Governor Jerry Brown signed California's so-called "sanctuary state" bill into law, Immigration and Customs Enforcement's acting director issued a response decrying the bill's passage and threatening negative ramifications for California's immigrant communities.

In the sharply worded statement from acting ICE director Tom Homan, the agency threatened "additional collateral arrests" in response to the new law, and said that it would "undermine public safety."

"ICE will have no choice but to conduct at-large arrests in local neighborhoods and at worksites, which will inevitably result in additional collateral arrests, instead of focusing on arrests at jails and prisons where transfers are safer for ICE officers and the community," Homan said. "ICE will also likely have to detain individuals arrested in California in detention facilities outside of the state, far from any family they may have in California."

The legislation, which limits state and local cooperation with federal immigration authorities and prohibits local law enforcement official from inquiring about or acting on an individuals immigration status, is "the most far-reaching of its kind in the country," according to the L.A. Times. The California Values Act, as the legislation is formally known, was championed by a broad statewide coalition of immigrant and civil rights organizations. Activists and lawmakers have hailed the law's passage as a victory against the Trump administration, and a necessary safeguard for the state's large immigrant community. "The California Values Act won’t stop ICE from trolling our streets—it will not provide full sanctuary—but it will put a kink in Trump’s perverse and inhumane deportation machine," California Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León, who first introduced the legislation, said in a statement Thursday.

"Governor Jerry Brown’s decision to sign SB54 and make California a sanctuary state for illegal aliens—including those who have committed crimes—will undermine public safety and hinder ICE from performing its federally mandated mission. The governor is simply wrong when he claims otherwise," Homan said.

Guillermo Torres, senior organizer with Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE), who works on immigration issues told LAist that community arrests that ICE describes are already happening. ("Collateral" in this context typically means undocumented individuals who weren't specifically targeted by ICE for having a criminal record, but were instead detained while other targeted arrests were being made). "Actions speak louder than words," Torres said. "When [Homan] says collateral damage—that has already been happening. They've been arresting people who have long ties to our community and society. How do they explain the enforcement that they have been doing lately around Los Angeles and the country, prior to the governor signing this bill?" Last month, when 101 people in the Los Angeles area were arrested during ICE sweeps targeting so-called "sanctuary" jurisdictions, 16% of those individuals had no prior criminal record, according to statistics provided by ICE.

"It's a pattern that ICE has shown. Instead of taking a moral ground on this issue like Governor Brown, they resort to threats to put more fear and make more suffering for the immigrant community, beyond what they are already suffering and experiencing," Torres said.

"With every politicized statement and raid, ICE is making clear that its objectives are punitive and political," Salvador Sarmiento, national campaign coordinator for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said in a statement to LAist. "No one at this point believes that ICE is remotely interested in public safety."

The California Immigrant Policy Center and Asian Americans Advancing Justice-CA also issued a response, calling the ICE statement "a repugnant act of desperation," and saying that "the administration is trying to further weaponize fear of the raids it is already carrying out."