The head of the federal deportation agency said Friday his agents will now have to go out into communities in California even more frequently to round up illegal immigrants, now that the state has embraced a full sanctuary policy.
Tom Homan, acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, made the comments a day after California Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB54 into law, canceling almost all cooperation state and local authorities can give to federal deportation officers.
He said the effect could be even more rank-and-file illegal immigrants snared because federal officers will now have to operate out in the community, rather than focus chiefly on prisons and jails.
“ICE will have no choice but to conduct at-large arrests in local neighborhoods and at worksites, which will inevitably result in additional collateral arrests, instead of focusing on arrests at jails and prisons where transfers are safer for ICE officers and the community,” Mr. Homan warned.
Thanks to the law’s restrictions on the ability of the private prison industry to hold illegal immigrants in California, Mr. Homan said his agency will also have to ship those being detained to facilities outside the state, making it even tougher for their families to visit them.
The new law also voids a specific cooperation agreement ICE had with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office under the 287(g) program, which had allowed local authorities to identify and prepare deportable aliens within their jails to be turned over to ICE.
“These are uncertain times for undocumented Californians and their families, and this bill strikes a balance that will protect public safety, while bringing a measure of comfort to those families who are now living in fear every day,” Mr. Brown said in approving the law.
Immigrant-rights activists also cheered the legislation, with Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, calling it a “stinging rebuke” to President Trump.
“With this and other steps, California is declaring that it wants no part in aiding and abetting Trump’s deportation force,” Mr. Sharry said.
Mr. Homan’s statement, though, suggests the paradox of sanctuary cities.
The goal is often to thwart immigration enforcement efforts, but that usually means protecting those who have come in contact with prisons or courts — including convicted criminals — that local authorities then refuse to turn over to waiting ICE officers.
Instead, the officers must try to arrest them at their homes or jobs out in the community — where their family or other illegal immigrants around them could also be arrested.
But it also takes more manpower — perhaps a full team of a half-dozen officers — to conduct an arrest in the community.
That means fewer illegal immigrants overall may be arrested, but more of them could be collateral arrests rather than the criminal targets all sides say should be the priority.
Republicans in Washington have called for a pushback against sanctuary cities and states, with a bill clearing the GOP-controlled House earlier this year.
Meanwhile a number of legal challenges — both for and against sanctuary cities — are making their way through the federal courts.
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