Santa Clara County, California, welcomes illegal aliens, evidently even those arrested for drugs, kidnapping, battery against a police officer, and burglary.
Carlos Eduardo Arevalo Carranza, an illegal alien from El Salvador, had been arrested 10 times on such charges over the past few years, but the county refused to hand him over to ICE on seven occasions when ICE requested an immigration hold. (Three other detainers were lodged in Los Angeles County.) Subsequently, Carranza was charged in March for allegedly beating and stabbing Bambi Larson to death in her own home in south San Jose. Yet, shockingly, after much debate, the county will continue its defiance of federal immigration law.
Santa Clara County has long been a sanctuary jurisdiction that has refused to even notify ICE of releases, much less work to honor detainers, long before California passed a statewide prohibition on honoring detainers in 2017. Following the murder of Larson, some county officials engaged in soul-searching about their responsibility for all the unnecessary criminal activity committed by people like Carranza who could easily be removed from the country after arrests for prior crimes. Yet on Tuesday, the Board of County Supervisors voted 5-0 to continue its policy of not even notifying ICE when law enforcement releases illegal aliens arrested for crimes, no matter the charge or criminal history.
One county supervisor, Susan Ellenberg, defended the move as a desire to “separate issues of immigration status from administration of our criminal justice system.” But ICE officials say they are not asking local officials to do immigration work; they are merely asking them not to actively shield criminal aliens from justice. “Foremost, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) neither expects, nor wants, local law enforcement agencies to execute immigration enforcement activities in their communities,” said Erik S. Bonnar, acting field office director for ICE’s Northern California office in a statement to CR. “But as law enforcement officers, we do expect our law enforcement partners to participate in protecting the American public. I urge Santa Clara County officials to prioritize public safety and the rights of past and future victims, as opposed to providing sanctuary to dangerous criminals who are in the United States illegally.”
Next, the county officials bizarrely defended their decision by asserting that there is no way of knowing someone’s immigration status, as if we are living in the Wild West. “There is no practical and legal way of knowing if a person in our custody is truly undocumented,” said Supervisor Mike Wasserman.
Bonnar strongly disagrees with this assertion because the local officials literally don’t have to do any investigative work. The discovery of immigration status is one of the most basic profile facts built into the system automatically.
“When a federal, state or local law enforcement agency makes an arrest, the Immigration Alien Response (IAR) process begins,” said Bonnar. “As part of the booking process, fingerprints are submitted to the FBI and compared against DHS databases, constituting an immigration alien query (IAQ). If a match occurs, ICE’s Law Enforcement Support Center (LESC) in Williston, Vermont generates an immigration alien response (IAR), which provides information regarding the subject’s immigration status, criminal history, and other important biographical information. At this point, ICE Field Offices and the Pacific Enforcement Response Center receive and review the IAR to verify the subject’s identity, immigration status, criminal record, custody status, and removability. If the subject is removable and in custody, ICE components lodge a detainer.”
In other words, county police don’t have to do any legwork. An ICE detainer is the identification of a criminal alien, because the feds already have the relevant information. Yet county officials are defending their defiance of ICE detainers along with not notifying ICE of arrested illegal aliens’ release under the circular logic that they have no way of knowing who is here illegally.
It’s not like county officials are in the dark about this process. “ICE has responded to all requests for information made by the Santa Clara board,” said Bonnar. He said ICE remains open to “compromise” that will “further the common goal of enhancing the safety of our communities.”
The danger of shielding the most violent and repeat criminal offenders among foreign nationals is hard to overstate. According to Bonnar, just since the county officials began debating and reviewing their sanctuary policies on April 9, “ICE has issued a total of 176 immigration detainers with the Santa Clara County Jail,” which is almost an average of three a day. Not only were none of these detainers honored, “108 of these individual had prior arrests,” which resulted in prior ICE detainers being lodged at the time, and all of them “were released without notification to ICE.”
This is a shocking amount of illegal alien criminality for a single county. Just last month, I reported that Ismael Huazo-Jardinez, an illegal alien, was arrested in Santa Clara for killing three members of a family sleeping in their trailer home. He was allegedly drunk while driving and plowed into the trailer home, killing all but the 11-year-old daughter in the Pacheco family. County officials released him on bond and refused to even notify ICE.
The fact is that there is a large criminal population among illegal aliens, and all of their subsequent crimes after their first arrests could be avoided simply by allowing ICE to remove them. This demonstrates how, contrary to the opinion of the local officials, criminal justice and immigration are indeed intertwined. Most criminals of all demographics, particularly murderers, are recidivists with prior records. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than three-fourths of felony defendants had a prior arrest history, with 69 percent having multiple prior arrests.
And these are not just parking violations or littering. Bonnar revealed that “the aggregate crimes committed by these individuals” who were released in defiance of ICE detainers “include assault with deadly weapon, obstructing police, possession of drugs for sale, domestic violence, robbery, indecent exposure, participation [in] criminal street gang, and arson.”
Bonnar lamented the fact that political leaders in Santa Clara are not listening to the concerns of their own local law enforcement. “It’s unfortunate that current local and state laws and policies tie the hands of local law enforcement agencies, like the San Jose Police Department, that continually voice their want and need to work with ICE to promote public safety. We applaud our local law enforcement partners who are working within the law to make it less complicated for my agents to apprehend criminal aliens released from local custody.”
Following the Bambi Larson murder, the San Jose mayor, San Jose police chief, and the county district attorney all expressed a desire to change the cooperation policies. “If we have custody of a violent gang member, there should be a call [to ICE],” said San Jose Police Union President Paul Kelly in a press conference this week.
Indeed, the permanent end of the criminal career of all foreign criminals is just a phone call away. Seldom is such a critical public policy problem affecting the core safety of so many communities so easily and completely solvable.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.