Sacramento Sheriff Sued by ACLU for Colluding with ICE to Illegally Transfer Immigrants from County Jail to ICE Custody

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By The Vanguard Staff

SACRAMENTO – The ACLU Tuesday said it has sued Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones for unlawfully turning over immigrants to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), in violation of state laws.

In the lawsuit filed this week, the ACLU Foundation of Northern California and Conrad | Metlitzky | Kane LLP allege that “sheriff’s officials unlawfully transfer(ed) immigrants to ICE after they have completed their county jail sentences, rather than releasing them to their families and communities or following proper notification procedures inside the jail.”

The ACLU charged “these practices violate state law, and that the sheriff—an outspoken opponent of California’s pro-immigrant laws—oversees them as official policy,” and is asking the courts to require the Sacramento County Sheriff to come into compliance with the California Values Act and TRUTH Act.

The lawsuit, filed in Sacramento County Superior Court on behalf of immigrant rights groups NorCal Resist and United Latinos and Sacramento resident Misael Echeveste, claims that the Sheriff has plotted methods to circumvent SB 54, the California Values Act, which limits how and when a person can be transferred to ICE, including notification that local law enforcement will make such a transfer.
Other counties in the state have ended ICE transfers from their jails, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Contra Costa, San Joaquin, Santa Cruz and Humboldt.

“The Sacramento Sheriff’s Office is inflicting this illegal practice upon people who are eligible to return to their home and communities under state law. If not for their country of origin, they would not be enduring this cruel double punishment,” said Sean Riordan, Senior Staff Attorney at the ACLU Foundation of Northern California in media interviews.

He added that “This lawsuit shows that California must outlaw all local cooperation with ICE. It’s still too easy for local officials with an anti-immigrant agenda to find ways to exploit the law and harm our communities. It also compounds racial disparities in the policing, immigration, and criminal justice systems, in which Black and Latinx communities are disproportionately targeted for arrest, detention, and deportation.”

And Mark Conrad, partner at Conrad | Melitzky | Kane LLP, noted, “It’s time for the sheriff’s office to honor the intent of these laws and to follow them in its policies and practices. For far too long, the sheriff’s office has been working to undermine the laws that were enacted for the benefit and protection of our immigrant communities.”

“Under SB 54, only a serious criminal conviction grants local law enforcement the legal authority to notify ICE about a person’s upcoming release from jail, or to transfer them to ICE. Documents obtained…show that the sheriff’s office improperly notifies ICE of the impending release of immigrants from one of two county jails, the Rio Consumnes Correctional Center (RCCC), and works to transfer them to ICE custody, even when they lack legal grounds to do so,” said the ACLU.

“Internal documents (also show)…almost immediately after SB 54 went into effect in 2018, the Sacramento Sheriff’s Office strategized ways to evade the law’s limitations on transfers, They developed an illegal notification system reflected in internal documents such as an ‘ICE Log Book,’ which demonstrates that sheriff’s deputies regularly notify ICE of a person’s release date and time, in violation of California law,” said the ACLU.

The lawsuit notes that when the Sheriff believes a transfer to ICE is permitted, “they will transfer a person to ICE inside its gates. But where SB 54 explicitly prohibits this cooperation, sheriff’s officials flout the law by transferring a person to ICE just outside its gates. ICE knows when to wait outside RCCC’s gates to arrest people because sheriff’s officials notify ICE when they expect to release someone whom ICE wants to arrest.”

The complaint charges that Echeveste, 26, was transferred from the RCCC to ICE in 2018, in violation of SB 54, after serving six weeks in jail for a misdemeanor. He has resided in California for 22 years; he was brought to the U.S. from Mexico when he was four years old, said the ACLU.

Echeveste said he was told by sheriff’s deputies he was getting released early. He said they congratulated him and took him to a changing room but handed him a green ICE detainee uniform, instead of street clothes, and laughed when they said they were transferring him to ICE. He was released in six weeks later on bond but is fighting deportation to Mexico where he doesn’t know anyone or have family, said the ACLU.

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