San Mateo County Sheriff Carlos Bolaños announced Tuesday that effective immediately, his office will no longer respond to any requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for notification of the release or transfer of any inmates in his custody.
Bolaños said this decision helps fulfill his office's mission to protect the safety of all San Mateo County residents, and is based on the trust and willingness of residents to cooperate with law enforcement, report crimes and testify in court.
On Wednesday, November 3, Bolaños and the Board of Supervisors heard from residents at the annual TRUTH Act Forum, a special meeting required when local law enforcement has given ICE access.
It has become clear to me that complying with these requests related to the pending release of undocumented individuals who have committed serious crimes is undermining the trust we need to protect the community," Bolaños said.
The sheriff stressed that it is "simply" not worth losing the trust of many members of the public by continuing to process these ICE requests.
"Our policy is now consistent with other Bay Area counties. This change was made after we heard from hundreds of residents who shared their perspective on how we will all be safer when the entire community understands that the Sheriff's Office is here to protect the public, not enforce immigration laws," he said.
Last year, this office coordinated 15 transfers to ICE from the county jail. Most people convicted of felonies serve their sentences in state prison, not the county jail. If ICE believes a person poses a serious threat, it can always obtain a court order, which all law enforcement agencies in the Bay Area must comply with.
"This is a momentous and compassionate decision by our sheriff to end cooperation with ICE. He listened to the community and values all of our residents regardless of their immigration status. This is a policy change that will keep families whole and I applaud Sheriff Bolaños for taking this action," said Board President David J. Canepa.
Supervisors Don Horsley and Carole Groom expressed similar sentiments.
"This decision is consistent with the Sheriff's personal values and deep-rooted commitment to serve and protect all residents of San Mateo County, regardless of immigration status. These values are reflected in his office's long history of support and commitment to immigrant communities," Horsley said.
"We thank the sheriff for working collaboratively with the Board of Supervisors and his swift implementation of this important change, which we support and believe is best for the county as a whole," Groom said. "We thank the sheriff for listening to the public, taking their comments very seriously and adopting a new policy."
Sheriff Bolaños reiterated that he remains committed to public safety: "I will continually evaluate any effects caused by this change in policy and, if necessary, consider adjustments," Bolaños reaffirmed.
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