By Crescenzo Vellucci
Vanguard Sacramento Bureau
SACRAMENTO – It’s no surprise that Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones may well be, as immigration advocates charged Wednesday, breaking California law – he’s known to flaunt his authority, and locked out an independent oversight inspector when he didn’t like the IG’s criticism of his deputies.
At a news conference in front of Jones’ downtown office doors Wednesday, critics charged Jones with “illegally transferring” a DUI prisoner to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department).
They’re urging the CA Attorney General step in to investigate Jones, and the convening of a grand jury.
But it’s not as though the SSD hasn’t helped out ICE before – and at a pace that far outpaces other counties.
Under state law, SB 54 – known as the California Values Act – is designed to prohibit state law enforcement officers from turning prisoners over to ICE, or even sharing information with their federal counterparts in most circumstances.
“But this is exactly what the Sheriff did here,” said Emi MacLean, a public defender with the San Francisco special immigration unit. Nambo is filing the complaint later this week claiming Jones’ office broke the law when it handed Enrique Nambo, a Sacramento father, over to ICE Aug. 7 of this year when Nambo was being released after four days in jail for a DUI.
It seems to be a mystery of who exactly in the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center alerted ICE, but Nambo – now being held in the immigration detention center in Bakersfield and who has San Francisco immigration court proceedings pending– told friends that SSD deputies said his “ride is here” as he was released from jail.
The “ride” turned out to be awaiting ICE agents. He’s been in custody now for four months separated from family and friends in Sacramento.
“He never should have been arrested by ICE,” MacLean said at the news conference. “He never should have been ripped from his community, prevented from being at his daughter’s side.”
MacLean called it “an illegal transfer to ICE, adding that “California passed the California Values Act to prohibit sheriff’s deputies from doing exactly what the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department did to Enrique Nambo in August.”
The SSD had no comment Wednesday other than to say, in effect, the department follows the law.
However, according to the Sacramento Immigration Coalition, Sacramento County is cooperating with ICE much, much more than other counties.
“In 2018, in Sacramento County, there were 26 transfers for the violation of driving under the influence,” said Dr. Rhonda Rios Kravitz, noting that Los Angeles County – eight times the size of Sacramento – transferred only one DUI to ICE, Riverside County turned over two, Alameda County four and Contra Costa County none.
“Nambo’s sentence was to serve four days at the RCCC. Instead of being released after his short sentence, he was handed over to ICE. It’s unjust to arrest and detain people for civil immigration matters after they’ve already served time for their convictions,” said Kravitz.
She suggested what Sheriff Jones says is not necessarily what he does.
“Even though Sheriff Jones must by state law comply with SB 54 and the Truth Act, he does so in ways that allow him to cooperate with ICE as much as possible. His policies reflect a different situation. Jones has publicly stated: ‘ICE has access to our facility, they’re in our facility regularly and they have access to our databases.’
“This permissive, broad, and undefined policy language allows the Sacramento Sheriff’s Office to effectively share any information that deputies have with ICE. Jones has created more fear and distrust in our immigrant communities. His actions tear families apart and cause serious harm to Sacramento County immigrant residents and the number of transfers for DUI’s in the County dramatically demonstrates this point,” Rios Kravitz said.
Greg Brucker of Jewish Action NorCal called Nambo’s incarceration an “abomination” and a form of “ethnic cleansing,” noting that “we think of it as we do the Holocaust and what happened in Nazi Germany…the Sheriff is complicit in crimes against humanity.”
And, Phil Courey, owner of Opa! Opa! Restaurant where Nambo worked for more than a decade, acknowledged that “we are a country of laws,” and said in this case that “law enforcement violated the law” and encouraged people to “reach out” to their elected officials.
The Sacramento Immigration Coalition is urging the CA Attorney General to “immediately investigate the policies of this Sheriff and the need for the Sheriff’s Department to adopt new policies to bring them into compliance with SB 54 and the Truth Act.”
The coalition is also calling for a county grand jury to investigate the SSD’s “illegal transfers of immigrants to ICE” and asking the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors to “impose a greater degree of accountability and transparency…through the creation of an Independent Civilian Review Board with Subpoena power…(to) ensure violations of SB 54 and the Truth Act are independently investigated.”
The coalition also said it wants the SSD to end ICE’s access to inmates in jail, to SSD computers and databases, SSD logs, booking and arrests documents, including release dates and times.