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Mayoral Issues: The Fab Five on Immigration

Kelsey Brugger, burgeoning star reporter and national affairs correspondent for the Independent, has a new post up on their website providing some eye-opening perspective on Santa Barbara’s role in the statewide debate over immigration.

Among other things, it sheds light on why our own Sheriff Bill Brown has been so vociferous in leading the law enforcement charge against Senate Bill 54, the so-called “Sanctuary State” law.

The story digs into a new report by an outfit called Immigration TRAC, a non-profit organization associated with Syracuse University, which sued the Department of Homeland Security for data about recent actions by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency under our 46 percent president.

Amazingly, the Santa Barbara County Jail ranks 25th in the nation – whatcha call your United States of America – in “holds” that ICE has requested on immigrants under the Trump Administration. Writes Kelsey:

Notably, Santa Barbara County Jail finished ahead of the county jails in Ventura and San Diego counties. Those counties have two and eight times the population of Santa Barbara County, respectively.

ICE “detainers” prepared for Santa Barbara County Jail in March 2017 quadrupled from the same one-month time period in 2014, according to the report. The number jumped from 21 to 86.

Currently, ICE “detainers” function as requests for certain foreign-born inmates who will be released from county jails. A federal judge found the practice of holding inmates longer than their local sentences was illegal.

Sheriff Bill takes incoming. The whole yarn is worth a read, because it also provides the only reporting on a forum, held last Thursday night, in which Sheriff Brown endured considerable community flack over his opposition to Senate Bill 54, the so-called “Sanctuary State” measure.

Sponsored by state Senate President Kevin de Leon, the bill is aimed at restricting the cooperation local law enforcement agencies provide in granting federal immigration authorities access to many undocumented immigrants – but not all – entangled in the criminal justice system.

Limit the role of state or local law enforcement agencies in holding and questioning immigrants in the the country illegally…prohibit police and sheriffs from asking about a person’s immigration’s status, detaining people for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement “hold” requests and participating in any program that deputizes police as immigration agents.

Brown, in his role as president of the California State Sheriffs’ Association, railed against early versions of the measure, saying the bill “protects criminals and jeopardizes public safety – it provides sanctuaries to criminals.”

On Monday, dispatches from Sacramento reported that de Leon had watered down the legislation, with amendments aimed at placating Governor Jerry Brown’s concerns, and that it is now headed for passage and signature. No word yet on Sheriff Bill’s take on the latest version.

Deep in the weeds with mayorals. In our recent “Newsmakers” one-on-one interviews with the five candidates for mayor, I asked them about SB 54, as a signifier to help understand their broader views on immigration.

For political junkies who just can't get enough of this stuff, here are transcripts of how they answered, along with the dates of the interviews, for context.

HAL CONKLIN (August 24).

Q: Do you support SB 54? Do you support a sanctuary state?

A: Well, I’ve been watching as it’s going through the legislature and I can see why it’s had trouble getting approval even from all the democrats because there are some key provisions in it that I know the Sheriff has made a big deal about, which is if there’s certain crimes such as attempted rape, or a variety of other things, which you can report on, that’s a problem. So, I think that there’s a core to that Bill which has value but you’ve got to work out - the devil’s in the details.

Q: So, you’re against it as of now?

A: I think that it’s got to get amended so some of these key provisions of criminal behavior are reportable.

Q: But, you think as a general principle that local law enforcement should not be cooperating too closely with the federal immigration authorities?

A: You know, I think the Police Chief and the Police Department already has taken a very good stand in Santa Barbara. I mean, it focuses on local laws and what we have to do locally. It doesn’t go out of its way to pretend to be federal agents. But, I think if you’re asked by the federal government, the only thing you should be reporting on is criminal behavior.


Q: Where are you on SB 54? Are you for or against it?

A: Yeah, no, that's a good question. I'm actually broader than even Sheriff Brown. I mean, to me the reason the United States is such an enviable place to come to for people all over the world is we're a nation of laws and we set those laws and whether we like them or not we try to follow them. So, if somebody comes here and their first act is to break one of those laws you start wondering, "Wait a minute, are you really wanting to be part of the American system," and then once you break that law you're gonna have to break others. You're gonna have to get a social security number illegally, you've got to do a lot of things illegally. It really puts people in an awkward position right away just to start off that way.

Q: …Do you agree with the Trump administration's execution of the immigration laws to-date?

A: I'm not sure what the administration's execution of those laws has been and I think that's been changing also. But, let me just continue the way I was going if I could.

Q: We've got about 30 seconds…

A: Okay. So, people that come here illegally, if you want to stay here and become an American I would get an attorney and go through the hoops, and learn everything, and get your English down, and do it all right and if you're not interested in staying, then realize you're probably gonna have to leave one way or the other, maybe willfully, hopefully. So, I want people to live happily legally here in every way.

Q: All right. So, we'll put you down as a no on the Sanctuary State Bill SB54.

A: Capital N, capital O.


Q: Do you support Senate Bill 54?

A. I agree with Bill Brown. I think that protecting criminals is the opposite of what we should be doing. I’m also - I want to protect families though, people who have been here 20 years, end up with a parking infraction and then end up at risk of being deported. I think we should find other options to give them some path to legal status.

Q: Path to citizenship?

A: Some path to legal status. It could be extended work permit, it could be a variety of different options. It at some point, could include citizenship but I think immediately there has to be some legal way for people to come and work here with an extended work permit, some form of legal status that allows them to live here and come and go back to Mexico or wherever they came from comfortably.

Q: Would you encourage the police department not to cooperate with ICE, with the Federal Immigration authorities?

A: Currently, there’s a program that’s called 287(G) which is an ICE regulation. 287(G) is voluntary. 287(G) most police agencies around the country feel that it puts a barrier between local police and immigrants because what it does is it deputizes the local police to be the arm of ICE.

I’m not in favor of that. I think it creates a lot of havoc, especially in a community like Santa Barbara. I am in favor however, of using the other aspects of ICE’s enforcement policies to make sure that criminals are scooped up and deported as rapidly as possible. They’re all in the fingerprint database. I’m in favor of the City of Santa Barbara participating in that database and letting ICE know when we have a criminal and when that person is in our custody and when they’re going to be released go pick them up.

CATHY MURILLO (August 17).

Q: Senate Bill 54 - for it or against it?

A: Well, I certainly do not believe in protecting people who have committed crimes especially, violent crimes so no, that aspect is not appealing to me. The City of Santa Barbara basically functions as a safe city for our undocumenteds. The Chamber of Commerce recognizes that undocumented labor force is a big part of our economy and I’m always going to be sensitive to the people who live and work here Jerry.

Q: So, you’re against Senate Bill 54, this sanctuary state?

A: No, I support it.

Q: Oh, you do support it?

A: But, I want it to be sure that it’s not letting criminals off the hook.

BENDY WHITE (August 24).

Q: Do you support the so-called State Sanctuary Bill on immigration, Senate Bill 54? As you know Sheriff Brown is vehemently against that and all the sheriffs are.

A: I would need to look at it more closely. I don’t have a position on that yet.


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Bill Brown photo credit: Paul Wellman.

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