The February murder of Santa Clara resident Bambi Larson by undocumented immigrant Carlos Eduardo Arevalo-Carranza, triggered a continuing debate within the county about local and state sanctuary city laws.
At an April 26 legislative conference in Gilroy, County Supervisor Mike Wasserman told a crowd of South County politicians and residents that the county was following state law when it came to releasing individuals to other government agencies. Wasserman’s District 1 includes both Gilroy and Morgan Hill.
“I want you all to know, despite what you read in the paper, despite what you see on TV, California law is that no county can honor a civil detainer. All counties must honor judicial warrants; it’s that simple,” said Wasserman. “Somebody comes to our jail and hands us a civil detainer, we say, ‘Sorry, we can’t honor that, according to state law.’ If they hand us a judicial warrant, we hand them the individual in handcuffs.”
Arevalo-Carranza stands accused of stabbing Larson Feb. 28 in her San Jose home following two releases from Santa Clara County jail earlier in the month. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had issued nine civil detainers for Arevalo-Carranza, but the county’s sanctuary policy does not allow local police to comply with the detainers, only warrants from a judge.
The county ordinance has stricter language than the state law, the California Values Act (SB-54), which according to the bill’s text, “would, among other things and subject to exceptions, prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies, including school police and security departments, from using money or personnel to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect or arrest persons for immigration enforcement purposes, as specified, and would, subject to exceptions, proscribe other activities or conduct in connection with immigration enforcement by law enforcement agencies.”
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld SB-54 on March 13 after the Trump administration had filed suit seeking a preliminary injunction.
The panel also rejected the United States’ contention that SB-54’s information-sharing restrictions—which prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies from providing information regarding a person’s release date from incarceration or other personal information—conflict with a section of the county law providing that “a federal, state or local government entity or official may not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, [the Department of Homeland Security] information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual,” the summary of the decision said.
“Although SB 54 expressly permits the sharing of information about immigration status, the United States argued that section 1373 actually applies to more information than just immigration status, and hence that SB 54’s prohibition on sharing other information created a direct conflict.”
Wasserman cited this decision in his remarks at the conference. He said that the county had previously cooperated with immigration officials when warrants were issued, but could not comply with detainers.
In 2011, the county passed its civil detainer policy. Wasserman was the only dissenting vote.
“Last year ICE came to use three or four times with warrants; we gave them the person,” said Wasserman. “This particular instance, they came to us several times with a detainer, which we said, ‘State law says we cannot accept. Come back with a warrant and we will give you that person.’ And they refused to do so.’ ”
The Santa Clara County Supervisors voted 4-1 April 9 to have staff come back with possible amendments to the county’s sanctuary ordinance. District 4 Supervisor Susan Ellenberg said she could not support the policy change and reminded those in attendance that aligning county policy directly with SB-54 would not have prevented Arevalo-Carranza’s release.
In two months, county staff is to present possible changes to the supervisors. Wasserman and Supervisor Dave Cortese made a joint proposal that asked staff to return with recommendations to update the local law.
At the supervisor’s meeting, Wasserman voiced support for local law enforcement communicating with ICE about the release dates of specific convicted criminals. Prior to the meeting all county police chiefs, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen signed a letter urging the supervisors to amend the county sanctuary policy.
Wasserman said he wanted to speak about the issue to clear up any confusion. “So however you may feel about undocumented individuals and deportation and all the rest of it, the county is following state law, as are all 57 other counties,” said Wasserman. “I just need you to know the truth on that, because there’s a lot of emotion there.”