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Illegal Cooperation with ICE

Updated: Jan 21, 2022

A Newsbreak article (from SJPC ally Robert J Hansen) to check out in reference to this issue is linked here.

What was this item all about?

At the Sac County 12/8 BOS meeting, there was a forum held to address, and take public comment on, the Sacramento Sheriff’s Office (SSO) interactions with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) during the past year.

*brief reminder of what ICE is: Immigration and Customs Enforcement enforces federal laws governing border control, customs, trade, and immigration, it is a part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Item description according to the agenda:

Pursuant to Government Code section 7283.1(d), the local governing body of any county, city, or city and county in which a local law enforcement agency has provided Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) access (as defined in statute) to an individual during the last year shall hold at least one community forum during the following year, that is open to the public, in an accessible location, and with at least 30 days’ notice to provide information to the public about ICE’s access to individuals and to receive and consider public comment.

What are the relevant pieces of legislation?

  1. The California Values Act (also known as SB 54 or California’s sanctuary law), which sharply limits when local law enforcement can transfer a person to ICE

  2. The TRUTH Act, which protects the due process rights of immigrants by requiring that local law enforcement officials provide them with written notification in advance of their transfer to ICE. (taken from Northern California branch of the American Civil Liberties Union - aka ACLU - press release)

The only exceptions to the Values Act for local law enforcement are found in the list below:

The important thing to take away from this list is that the "offenses" which allow the Sheriff to communicate with ICE are very limited.

What are the community demands?

Immigration advocates assert that the Sheriff has been violating these laws and unlawfully using county resources to coordinate with ICE. They have called for the Sac County BOS to adopt a resolution that will end the provision of funding that provides support for the county’s cooperation with, and referral of immigrants to ICE.

What does the Sheriff say?

The Sheriff (Scott Jones) completely denies any wrongdoing or unlawful cooperation with ICE. Some important slides from the SSO presentation are listed below (you can find the full slide deck here):

More context on the Sheriff's response to the claims of immigration justice advocates can be found below:

*These quotes have been pulled from the Newsbreak article (mentioned at the top of the page

Sheriff Scott Jones said that in 2020, the Sheriff's department did not cooperate or have any coordinated activities with ICE.
"We never inquire about the status,” Jones said. “We might ask where they were born.”

Jones said that no ICE detainees were held at Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center in 2020.

Supervisor Phil Serna questioned Jones about whether any coordination between ICE is occurring outside of the context of the Truth Act. The Sheriff essentially said no.
“So the totality of any cursory communication or cooperation as it pertains to ICE is the SB 54 qualified notification?” Serna said. “That’s it,” Jones said.

The Sheriff maintains that the only transfers to ICE were within the constraints of the aforementioned legislation, and that there has been no unlawful activity or coordination taking place between the SSO and ICE.

So, what’s really been going on?

The Sheriff’s statements directly contradict what has been said by immigration justice advocates. There were two presentations at the board meeting aside from the Sheriff's; one from a coalition of immigration justice organizations demanding a BOS resolution, and the other from the ACLU of Northern California presenting evidence of the illegal cooperation with ICE that the SSO has been engaging in.

The resolution

A coalition of orgs demanded that the BOS adopt a resolution to stop using county resources to coordinate with ICE through a letter sent to the supervisors in November of 2021.

These are the orgs that make up the coalition:

Sacramento ACT (Area Congregations Together) - website linked here

CIDR (Campaign for Immigrant Detention Reform) - website linked here

Sacramento Immigrant Coalition - Facebook page linked here

Here is a piece of important language pulled from the letter (you can find the full letter in the meeting’s public comment doc linked here):

As community members who share that commitment, the undersigned write respectfully to ask you to protect all residents by ending all funding for cooperation with, and referral of immigrants to federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) through budgetary allocations to the Sheriff’s Department. Monies should not be used to provide assistance or cooperation to ICE in its civil immigration enforcement efforts including:

Three orgs from the previous coalition (Alianza, CIDR, & Sacramento Immigration Coalition) then went on to present the demand for a resolution at the 12/8 meeting.

Below you can find the slide summarizing the resolution demands (you can find a link to the full slide deck here):

The ACLU presentation

Back in April of this year, the ACLU and the Sacramento Immigration Coalition sent a letter to Supervisor Kennedy outlining their demand for the SSO to cease its illegal coordination with ICE, and addressing the misleading statements from the SSO saying that the board does not have the legal authority to regulate the SSO’s cooperation with ICE. This letter clearly validates the fact that the BOS does have the authority to govern the SSO's cooperation with ICE.

The full letter can be found by clicking here.

Some important language from the letter can be found below:

Following a lack of action from the BOS, the ACLU sued Sheriff Scott Jones in November 2021.

The suit alleges that sheriff’s officials unlawfully transfer 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 suit claims that these practices violate state law, and that the sheriff—an outspoken opponent of California’s pro-immigrant laws—oversees them as official policy.

The ACLU and the Sacramento Immigration Coalition then presented at the 12/8 meeting, providing evidence of the Sheriff consistently aiding and abetting the transfer of the incarcerated into ICE custody. The full slide deck can be found here, but to summarize, they claim the following three things:

  1. The SSO engaged in illegal notifications of released people to ICE agents

  2. The SSO engaged in illegal transfers of people to ICE

  3. The SSO underreported numbers of ICE transfers completed

It is incredibly frustrating that there was no immediate action taken by the Board to address this issue. It seems like Scott Jones can get away with unlawful behavior quite consistently. This is a serious human rights issue, and the SSO needs to be held accountable for their actions. It is critical that we keep pushing at BOS meetings for immigration justice and for the SSO to ensure its compliance to immigration law.

What was the outcome of this meeting?

Supervisor Serna said that a resolution could be worked on, and addressed further in June of 2022.

Serna made a statement indicating the possibility of holding the SSO accountable (quotes pulled from the Newsbreak article):

Serna said that he has not seen any reconciliation from the Sheriff’s Department with the figures presented by the ACLU. “I just heard that the Sheriff talked to ICE 280 times last which completely contradicts what he just said,” Serna said. “I think the Sheriff quite frankly needs to do a better job.”

What happens next?

Insist to your supervisor that they adopt this resolution, and fiercely advocate against more money going to the SSO during this budget cycle.

Use this link to find your supervisor:

Supervisor contact info:

District 1: Phil Serna

District 2: Patrick Kennedy

District 3: Rich Desmond


District 4: Sue Frost

District 5: Don Nottoli

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