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San Mateo County Sheriff's Office ends ICE transfers, effective immediately

Immigration activists, county officials hail decision

A San Mateo County Sheriff's Office vehicle outside of the San Mateo County Superior Court's Southern Branch in Redwood City on Feb. 2, 2021. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

San Mateo County Sheriff Carlos Bolanos said Tuesday his department will end release transfer requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a decision that comes amid public backlash and less than a week after the annual TRUTH Act Forum where dozens of residents spoke out overwhelmingly against the practice.

Bolanos said the decision, which takes effect immediately, was made in part due to his desire to maintain a trusting relationship with the public.

"It simply is not worth losing the trust of many members of the public by continuing to process these requests from ICE,'' Bolanos said in a statement. "This change is being made after we heard from hundreds of residents who shared their perspective on how we will all be safer when the entire community understands the Sheriff's Office is here to protect the public, not enforce immigration laws."

Supervisors Don Horsley, Board President David J. Canepa and Carole Groom spoke out in favor of Bolanos' decision.

Canepa called the decision "momentous and compassionate."

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"He listened to the community and values all our residents regardless of immigration status," Canepa said. "This is a policy change that will keep families whole and I applaud Sheriff Bolanos for taking this action."

Horsley echoed Canepa and said the decision was "consistent with the sheriff's personal values and deep-rooted commitment" to protect all of San Mateo, including immigrants.

Groom thanked the sheriff "for listening to the public and taking their comments very seriously and adopting a new policy."

"We thank the Sheriff for working collaboratively with the Board of Supervisors and his quick implementation of this important change, which we support and believe is in the best interest of the county as a whole," Groom said.

Sarah Lee, ​​a Community Advocate at Advancing Justice Asian Law Caucus (ALC) and SMCCIR collaborator, described the Sheriff’s decision as "a huge victory that could not have been done without the amazing and courageous testimonies of people who've been impacted."

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She said that because many ICE transfers happen "in the shadows" of jails and detention centers, public awareness has long relied on people sharing their stories.

"This has been the ask for the past four years, at least. So it's been years of organizing from the community."

In 2020, the Sheriff's Office reported they released 15 immigrants to ICE, which accounted for 62% of all Bay Area transfers and more than any other individual county.

In an interview with the Pulse last week, Bolanos justified the departments' transfers to ICE due to their criminal convictions.

"Pursuant to SB 54, the California Values Act, each one of these individuals had qualifying convictions," he said. "Per the law, we responded to a request for notification from ICE and they came to pick them up."

According to Bolanos, examples of the crimes committed by these individuals include kidnapping, lewd and lascivious acts towards a child under the age of 14 and assault with deadly weapons.

"For me, at least, the process does more harm than it does good," Supervisor Warren Slocum told the Pulse after last week's forum. While he said he appreciated the Sheriff's commitment to public safety, Slocum added, "I would counter by saying that other counties have done this non-cooperation with ICE approach, and I believe my research shows that they continue to be safe places.

"I think the bigger question is, how do you really ensure safe communities? It's not just through policing, as you know. It's about jobs, it's about education, it's about opportunities for families and for people to get ahead."

'The welfare of all people'

Hours before the county's TRUTH Act Forum, community members and advocates gathered outside the San Mateo Superior Courthouse to protest Bolanos’ continued cooperation with ICE. Among those in attendance, were several who were personally impacted by ICE transfers approved by San Mateo County.

Nora Melendez, a longtime resident of East Palo Alto, spoke about her husband, Sergio, who was arrested in December 2018 and within 48 hours was transferred to ICE custody. Melendez posted his bail so that he could return home to his family — but upon his release he was picked up by immigration officials instead.

"I was not notified. I didn't know where he was," Melendez told the Pulse over the phone. For several days, she said, Sergio was shuttled back and forth between different ICE facilities with little explanation. A mistake nearly resulted in his being deported to Mexico, though he's originally from El Salvador. For eight months, Sergio's only contact with his wife and three young children was through phone calls.

"When somebody is up and disappears one day, the kids notice," said Melendez. "We definitely saw the effects of his absence on them. They were very much aware that something was different. And that when he came back, it was a possibility that he would just be gone again. So they were always worried."

Melendez, who was undocumented for much of her childhood and has become a vocal advocate for immigration reform, said she understands "what it feels like to have to have to kind of live in the shadows of society.

"Part of the issue here with ICE and immigration in this country is that just our community doesn't feel comfortable walking around freely in the new place that they have made their homes."

Tovis Page, a minister in training and 30-year resident of San Mateo County, also spoke during last week's rally, saying it was her fourth TRUTH Act Forum and, she hoped, her last.

"The county website says that the county provides for the health and welfare of all people within its borders. It doesn't say all citizens or even all free citizens. It says all people within its borders," she said. "Voluntarily transferring immigrants to ICE who have served their time and have been deemed eligible for release is blatantly discriminatory and runs counter to who we say we are as a county."

Santa Clara County has taken a firm stance against cooperating with ICE and emphasized its support for all residents no matter their immigration status. County leaders reiterated that position in 2019 as ICE raids were rampant across the country.

"Immigration raids and deportations put undocumented families in fear, which limits their ability to become productive members of the community," Supervisor Cindy Chavez said at the time. "Residents of this county, regardless of immigration status, must be allowed to thrive and contribute to the greater good."

In June 2019, the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to reject changing course and notifying ICE of the release of county jail inmates suspected to be in the country illegally.

An estimated more than 130,000 people were living in the county as of 2019.

The county has established a Rapid Response Network, a 24/7 hotline where people can report ICE activity, which can be accessed by calling 408-290-1144.

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Leah Worthington writes for the Redwood City Pulse, a sister site of PaloAltoOnline.com. Pulse Editor Michelle Iracheta contributed to this story.

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Leah Worthington, a Menlo Park native, joined the Redwood City Pulse in 2021. She covers everything from education and climate to housing and city government. Previously she worked as the online editor for California magazine in Berkeley and co-hosts a podcast. Se habla español! Read more >>

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San Mateo County Sheriff's Office ends ICE transfers, effective immediately

Immigration activists, county officials hail decision

by / Redwood City Pulse

Uploaded: Tue, Nov 9, 2021, 5:14 pm

San Mateo County Sheriff Carlos Bolanos said Tuesday his department will end release transfer requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a decision that comes amid public backlash and less than a week after the annual TRUTH Act Forum where dozens of residents spoke out overwhelmingly against the practice.

Bolanos said the decision, which takes effect immediately, was made in part due to his desire to maintain a trusting relationship with the public.

"It simply is not worth losing the trust of many members of the public by continuing to process these requests from ICE,'' Bolanos said in a statement. "This change is being made after we heard from hundreds of residents who shared their perspective on how we will all be safer when the entire community understands the Sheriff's Office is here to protect the public, not enforce immigration laws."

Supervisors Don Horsley, Board President David J. Canepa and Carole Groom spoke out in favor of Bolanos' decision.

Canepa called the decision "momentous and compassionate."

"He listened to the community and values all our residents regardless of immigration status," Canepa said. "This is a policy change that will keep families whole and I applaud Sheriff Bolanos for taking this action."

Horsley echoed Canepa and said the decision was "consistent with the sheriff's personal values and deep-rooted commitment" to protect all of San Mateo, including immigrants.

Groom thanked the sheriff "for listening to the public and taking their comments very seriously and adopting a new policy."

"We thank the Sheriff for working collaboratively with the Board of Supervisors and his quick implementation of this important change, which we support and believe is in the best interest of the county as a whole," Groom said.

Sarah Lee, ​​a Community Advocate at Advancing Justice Asian Law Caucus (ALC) and SMCCIR collaborator, described the Sheriff’s decision as "a huge victory that could not have been done without the amazing and courageous testimonies of people who've been impacted."

She said that because many ICE transfers happen "in the shadows" of jails and detention centers, public awareness has long relied on people sharing their stories.

"This has been the ask for the past four years, at least. So it's been years of organizing from the community."

In 2020, the Sheriff's Office reported they released 15 immigrants to ICE, which accounted for 62% of all Bay Area transfers and more than any other individual county.

In an interview with the Pulse last week, Bolanos justified the departments' transfers to ICE due to their criminal convictions.

"Pursuant to SB 54, the California Values Act, each one of these individuals had qualifying convictions," he said. "Per the law, we responded to a request for notification from ICE and they came to pick them up."

According to Bolanos, examples of the crimes committed by these individuals include kidnapping, lewd and lascivious acts towards a child under the age of 14 and assault with deadly weapons.

"For me, at least, the process does more harm than it does good," Supervisor Warren Slocum told the Pulse after last week's forum. While he said he appreciated the Sheriff's commitment to public safety, Slocum added, "I would counter by saying that other counties have done this non-cooperation with ICE approach, and I believe my research shows that they continue to be safe places.

"I think the bigger question is, how do you really ensure safe communities? It's not just through policing, as you know. It's about jobs, it's about education, it's about opportunities for families and for people to get ahead."

Hours before the county's TRUTH Act Forum, community members and advocates gathered outside the San Mateo Superior Courthouse to protest Bolanos’ continued cooperation with ICE. Among those in attendance, were several who were personally impacted by ICE transfers approved by San Mateo County.

Nora Melendez, a longtime resident of East Palo Alto, spoke about her husband, Sergio, who was arrested in December 2018 and within 48 hours was transferred to ICE custody. Melendez posted his bail so that he could return home to his family — but upon his release he was picked up by immigration officials instead.

"I was not notified. I didn't know where he was," Melendez told the Pulse over the phone. For several days, she said, Sergio was shuttled back and forth between different ICE facilities with little explanation. A mistake nearly resulted in his being deported to Mexico, though he's originally from El Salvador. For eight months, Sergio's only contact with his wife and three young children was through phone calls.

"When somebody is up and disappears one day, the kids notice," said Melendez. "We definitely saw the effects of his absence on them. They were very much aware that something was different. And that when he came back, it was a possibility that he would just be gone again. So they were always worried."

Melendez, who was undocumented for much of her childhood and has become a vocal advocate for immigration reform, said she understands "what it feels like to have to have to kind of live in the shadows of society.

"Part of the issue here with ICE and immigration in this country is that just our community doesn't feel comfortable walking around freely in the new place that they have made their homes."

Tovis Page, a minister in training and 30-year resident of San Mateo County, also spoke during last week's rally, saying it was her fourth TRUTH Act Forum and, she hoped, her last.

"The county website says that the county provides for the health and welfare of all people within its borders. It doesn't say all citizens or even all free citizens. It says all people within its borders," she said. "Voluntarily transferring immigrants to ICE who have served their time and have been deemed eligible for release is blatantly discriminatory and runs counter to who we say we are as a county."

Santa Clara County has taken a firm stance against cooperating with ICE and emphasized its support for all residents no matter their immigration status. County leaders reiterated that position in 2019 as ICE raids were rampant across the country.

"Immigration raids and deportations put undocumented families in fear, which limits their ability to become productive members of the community," Supervisor Cindy Chavez said at the time. "Residents of this county, regardless of immigration status, must be allowed to thrive and contribute to the greater good."

In June 2019, the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to reject changing course and notifying ICE of the release of county jail inmates suspected to be in the country illegally.

An estimated more than 130,000 people were living in the county as of 2019.

The county has established a Rapid Response Network, a 24/7 hotline where people can report ICE activity, which can be accessed by calling 408-290-1144.

Leah Worthington writes for the Redwood City Pulse, a sister site of PaloAltoOnline.com. Pulse Editor Michelle Iracheta contributed to this story.

Comments

We Are The People
Registered user
Menlo Park
on Nov 10, 2021 at 12:44 pm
We Are The People, Menlo Park
Registered user
on Nov 10, 2021 at 12:44 pm

We are a Nation of "Laws".
People commit crimes and then they want Sympathy.
What is wrong with this picture?
Ms Melendez did not mention why Her Husband was arrested in the 1st place?
If it were for the "Color of his skin" They should be filing for discrimination?
There are NO "Rights" that come along with entering the
United States, unless its for "Asylums"?
We the People of The United States are entitled to all "Protection" that are necessary?
Knowing who is within Our Borders is one of them. Law Enforcement
have enough problems already with the "Homegrown" violators.
Right off the bat, entering the USA wrongly, is a tell tale sign of future habits & involvements. I would carry this over also, to the People that "Aid and Abet".
California is "Sanctuary State".
Am all for ALL LEGAL IMMIGRATION. Not in keeping People here that will add burdens to My Tax Dollars eventually.
Not All "Undocumented" violators entering are from "Mexico". Ever been hit by an Undocumented DUI Driver from Honduras? Then within 15 months another DUI Driver?

Its too bad that Our Leaders in Charge were pressured by a (crowd) in backing down, with helping to enforce the laws?
Advocates for the Hispanics are very STRONG. They follow a "Blueprint". which is very successful.
What next? Crowds showing up at Bail Hearings to allow "Low Level" crimes out on "No Bail"? Only to have them reoffend? ......Oops, that's already being done.
"No Bail" would be alright, but NOT for the reoffenders!


Lillian Davis
Registered user
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Nov 10, 2021 at 1:09 pm
Lillian Davis, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
Registered user
on Nov 10, 2021 at 1:09 pm

ICE is merely doing its job by detaining & deporting those who are here illegally and if they are convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, these individuals should either be incarcerated in the state penitentiary system or sent back to their native country...no questions asked.

A sanctuary 'catch & release' criminal policy towards undocumented immigrants is merely an endorsement promoting further illegal immigration and crime.

And Biden's proposed $450K bonus to illegal immigrants is doing our country a major disservice.

Before any undocumented immigrants receive such payments, legitimate American citizens should be the first in line to receive them.

Lastly, the only way to avoid such policy failures is to prevent any more people from crossing the border illegally.

America is no longer a land of opportunity except for illegal aliens and refugees who should focus on strengthening & rebuilding their own countries rather than weakening ours.


Hinrich
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Nov 10, 2021 at 5:37 pm
Hinrich, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Nov 10, 2021 at 5:37 pm

Bolanos - and the County - are not in charge of our national immigration policy. He is required to uphold the Constitution which gives immigration policy to the Federal government not use the privilege of his office to push his own agenda. Is Bolanos, a Latino, favoring Latinos over what’s best for Americans and the rule of law? When did we give sheriffs the right to decide which laws they will enforce? It seems that officials are increasingly pushing their own agendas and that is not the government of the people we are supposed to have. Bolanos is trying to hide illegals. This isn’t law enforcement, it’s Bolanos breaking the law for his own ideas - that is wrong. Protecting illegals who may fear discovery by law enforcement is breaking the law and ultimately, that doesn’t help anyone.


Martha Dogood
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Nov 10, 2021 at 5:57 pm
Martha Dogood, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Nov 10, 2021 at 5:57 pm

Great comment Lillian!

“America is no longer a land of opportunity except for illegal aliens and refugees who should focus on strengthening & rebuilding their own countries rather than weakening ours.”

Absolutely right! Also for all those that spout off on “diversity” we are best off protecting the diversity of cultures and peoples by focusing on how all countries can be self sufficient without desperate need of exporting their people as impoverished unskilled refugees.

Also, the only way to be strong for others is to first be strong yourself. America needs to rediscover Americanism and all this means - assimilation of LEGAL immigrants into full understanding of our Constitution and common values of rule of law, hard work, self responsibility, and loyalty to USA (and your fellow Americans).

Once we rediscover these values and rebuild our broken culture, then we can better help the Haitis and Guatemalas of the world so they too can sustain their own unique cultures. America is not here to solve the world’s problems, we are here to be Americans and realize our full potential as a culture and people under the eyes of God, and under a rule of law guided by our Constitution.

Sheriff Bolanos: please read the Constitution and current Fed immigration law. Although the Biden regime is lawless this does not mean you should do the same. Be American!


Fritzie Blue
Registered user
Stanford
on Nov 10, 2021 at 9:03 pm
Fritzie Blue, Stanford
Registered user
on Nov 10, 2021 at 9:03 pm

How have we devolved into picking and choosing laws to follow? When did this become accepted practice? Are we citizens expected to just put up or shut up? I weep for the future of our beautiful state, with this issue and so many others.


Jesse Bream
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 11, 2021 at 3:10 pm
Jesse Bream, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Nov 11, 2021 at 3:10 pm

An Open Door policy to all immigrants claiming refugee status has got to end.

America is still recovering from the pandemic and a weakened economy.

And we cannot afford to accommodate everyone who wants to live here.

No different than some Palo Alto residents putting their foot down on further housing development.


Anonymous
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 11, 2021 at 9:13 pm
Anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Nov 11, 2021 at 9:13 pm

Having criminals get released after finishing all (or part) of their sentences and being deported by ICE if they’re illegally in this particular country makes clear sense to me.
Our politicians - instead - rewarding these criminals by inviting them to STAY in this country afterwards makes no sense at all!
Whatever happened to common sense?
Whatever happened to prioritizing the public safety of legal citizens and legal residents!?
Why should illegal aliens take priority over us?
Citizens need to get involved with government and politics more - and to realize what our current non-representatives are doing.


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