A representative from the Contra Costa jails have confirmed they are reconsidering their policy on deporting undocumented inmates. The agreement is currently being finalized by the sheriff’s department. Once it is complete it will reduce the county’s number of deportations.
A key component of the policy is that it will allow the sheriff’s department to decide who they will and will not detain and turn over to US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. Approximately 2,100 immigrants have been deported from Contra Costa jails since 2008. Approximately 780 of those individuals had not committed a crime.
At the current time, anyone who is arrested is fingerprinted and must undergo a national background check. During that time their fingerprints are submitted to the nation’s immigration department to determine if they have legal status. Persons who are deemed to be in the country illegally are given an ICE hold. This means the jail must hold them for up to 48 hours in order to allow customs agents to come pick them up. Deportation proceedings begin after the immigrant is transferred to ICE.
Contra Costa jails have confirmed they have one of the highest deportation rates in the Bay Area. Opponents of the policy say the financial and emotional costs to the families of deportees is simply too much. In some cases people who have not lived in Mexico for many years are uprooted and shipped back to that country. Many of these people do not have friends or family that live in that area. Immigration advocates say the practice is cruel at best.
When the new policy is enacted several things will change. People who are not charged with a crime will not be detained for ICE. People who are convicted of certain misdemeanors and those whose cases are dismissed will not be turned over to immigration. Immigrants who are arrested for driving while under the influence and/or violating a domestic violence restraining order will be given an ICE hold.
The sheriff’s department reportedly said their attorneys are still going over all the legal points. They have not said when they think the new policy will go into effect. They are hopeful these changes will allow undocumented persons to feel they can report instances of crime without being worried about deportation.