The Orange County Sheriff’s Department, whose leadership opposes the new California sanctuary law that limits cooperation with federal immigration officials, announced Monday that it is now providing public information on when inmates are released from custody.
As of Monday, March 26, an existing “Who’s in Jail” online database includes the date and time of inmates’ release – a move agency officials say will enhance communication with its law enforcement partners.
The release date information applies to all inmates, not just those who are suspected of being in the country illegally. But the goal is to assist agents with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.
“This is in response to SB-54 limiting our ability to communicate with federal authorities and our concern that criminals are being released to the street when there’s another avenue to safeguard the community by handing them over (to ICE for potential deportation),” Orange County Undersheriff Don Barnes said.
Orange County officials did not confer with ICE before making the change, he said.
ICE spokeswoman Lori Haley wrote in an email late Monday that she would not comment “beyond what the Sheriff has said.”
The new state law, dubbed the California Values Act, has recently seen a backlash from some Orange County communities. The City Council in Los Alamitos voted last week on an ordinance to exempt the city in northern Orange County from the state law.
A few other Orange County cities are considering resolutions and other moves to voice their opposition to the law. The Yorba Linda City Council, for example, agreed to file an amicus brief to a lawsuit filed by the Trump administration against California and immigration-related laws the federal government alleges are unconstitutional. And on Tuesday, March 27, the Orange County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to consider a range of possible actions: from a resolution to pursuing litigation against the state.
The 2020 U.S. Census will add a question about citizenship status, a move that brought swift condemnation from Democrats who said it would intimidate immigrants and discourage them from participating.
The population count taken every 10 years is more than an academic exercise. It’s required by the Constitution and used to determine the number of seats each state has in the House as well as how federal money is distributed to local communities. It helps communities determine where to build schools, hospitals, grocery stores and more.
Congress delegates to the commerce secretary the authority to determine census questions. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had until the end of March to submit the list of questions to Congress. The department said the citizenship information would help the Justice Department enforce the Voting Rights Act, which protects minority voting rights and helps prevent the unlawful dilution of the vote on the basis of race.
“Secretary Ross determined that obtaining complete and accurate information to meet this legitimate government purpose outweighed the limited potential adverse impacts,” the department said in its announcement.
A coalition of state attorneys general urged the department last month to not add such a question, saying it could lower participation among immigrants and cause a population undercount.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the state will sue the Trump administration over its decision.
Just more than a week after tiny Los Alamitos voted to defy California’s law protecting immigrants in the country illegally, Orange County is poised to become a counterpoint against the state’s resistance to the Trump administration’s policies.
On Tuesday, Orange County supervisors may consider whether to take up a resolution to condemn and possibly take legal action against the state’s “sanctuary” laws.
“These state laws are preempted by federal law,” Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson said. “Our officers actually face penalties under state law if they so much as talk to federal agents for the wrong thing. That’s just unacceptable and it’s contrary to federal law.”
Nelson said he’ll broach in closed session whether to join a federal lawsuit against the state or launch its own litigation.
Other cities in the county, including Yorba Linda, Buena Park, Huntington Beach and Mission Viejo are also starting to take action to voice their grievances against the state’s sanctuary laws aimed at protecting immigrants from President Trump’s immigration crackdown.
On Monday, Texas and more than a dozen other states led by Republican governors got behind the Trump administration and filed an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit against California’s sanctuary laws.