The Alameda County Sheriff's Office will no longer honor requests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold suspected undocumented immigrants in jail who would otherwise be eligible for release, joining a growing wave of backlash against the controversial policy.
In a memo Wednesday, sheriff's Capt. Colby Staysa ordered that any inmates held in Alameda County jails who were not being otherwise held for further criminal proceedings be immediately released, and to no longer accept immigration detainer requests from ICE.
The ICE policy of requesting that local law enforcement agencies hold suspected undocumented immigrants for periods of up to 48 hours to be
transferred to ICE custody for possible deportation was implemented in 2009. The holds can be requested no matter the severity of the crime.
Alameda County's move follows Contra Costa County, which halted its compliance with ICE detainer requests last week in response to an April 11 U.S. District Court ruling in Oregon that found that state's Clackamas County liable for a woman's unlawful detention under an ICE request.
ICE officials had clarified that detainer requests "are not mandatory as a matter of law," according to Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston, so his office stopped compliance.
The Oregon order noted that ICE's legal stance on whether it can require the holds may be shifting, because after 2010 the agency stopped using the word "require" in its requests to law enforcement agencies.
Some counties had already placed limits on the requests, including San Francisco, which mandated that the requests only be honored in cases of serious or violent offenses.
Gov. Jerry Brown last October signed similar statewide legislation, the TRUST Act, that took effect in January, instructing law enforcement agencies not to comply with the policy unless the inmate has a serious criminal history.
Santa Clara County, which debated the controversial policy late last year, has a policy of not cooperating with the hold requests unless ICE pays for the cost of continued detainment.
ICE officials had little to say today about the court rulings and recent announcements.
ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said in a statement that ICE "will continue to work cooperatively with law enforcement partners throughout California as the agency seeks to enforce its priorities through the identification and removal of convicted criminals and others who are public safety threats."
Immigrant rights advocates hailed Alameda County's decision as a victory against what they have called the unconstitutional detention of undocumented immigrants under the policy.
"Today is a victorious day for immigrant communities and the values of due process and equality under the law in this country," the Alameda County United in Defense of Immigrant Rights coalition said in a statement Wednesday.
"We call for continued dialogue so that we can ultimately end all entanglement between our local law enforcement and ICE's cruel deportation machinery," the statement said.
Immigration rights group Causa Justa said that 2,377 Alameda County residents have been deported as a result of the sheriff's office's cooperation with the ICE policy.