Preserving Trust &amp; Community Safety Through Fair Detainer Policies

The inability of Congress to address the broken immigration system is forcing counties and states to address the complexity of immigration issues in a piece meal fashion. In this context, Santa Clara County stands out. The most recent example is the Santa Clara County Detainer Policy No. 3.54. This present policy ensures that limited resources do not create a two-tiered system of justice. This current policy ensures that everyone in our system receives equal treatment regardless of immigration status. There is no justifiable reason to treat people’s criminal cases differently just because of their immigration status. The Santa Clara County Detainer Policy supports equal protection guarantees under the US Constitution, while avoiding due process concerns created by ICE tactics.

Santa Clara County’s current detainer policy has set the national standard for building trust between local law enforcement and the immigrant community in an effort to provide for the safety for all, build trust among diverse communities and treat all individuals equally regardless of immigration status. It provides safety for all and saves precious local resources by curbing wasteful detentions of undocumented Santa Clara residents in local jails. The SCC detainer policy allows our local resources to be used for public safety and leaves the enforcement of federal immigration law to ICE and the immense funding it receives. In 2012, the U.S. spent 18 billion on immigration enforcement, more than on the FBI, DEA, Secret Service, and all other federal criminal law enforcement agencies combined.

Our criminal justice system provides adequate safeguards to protect public safety and those safeguards have remained in place in the context of the SCC Detainer Policy. The criminal justice center is composed of a system of checks and balances divided up between the district attorney, the public defender, and the judge. The district attorney and judge have ample opportunity to take public safety into account through charging practices, bail decisions, and sentencing.

The SCC detainer policy recognizes that local law enforcement and ICE should be separate and clearly defined entities in order to maintain trust between the police and immigrant communities. It recognizes that immigrant communities wish to live in safe communities, however, when an arrest can turn into extended detention and then deportation, confidence between local law enforcement and immigrant communities is extremely eroded.

The Trust Act, recent state legislation signed by the Governor, was written as the first step, not the only step, in limiting the collaboration of local law enforcement and ICE at the state level, and is particularly important in counties that are not immigrant friendly. Although the Trust Act takes a step toward limiting this collaboration, like many state bills, it was the result of heavy compromise and includes a tremendously long list of exceptions. Counties are presently grappling with the cost and complexity of implementing this bill.

SCC already has a better policy in place that improves police-community relations, that will not cost additional funding and is recognized in the nation for being a beacon of light in the darkness of a broken immigration system lets support a policy that allows for community trust, public safety and the efficient use of limited county resources.

This article originally appeared on the South Bay Labor Council blog.