California Attorney General Sides with Aliens in Secure Communities Debate

Published on December 18th, 2012

By Joe Guzzardi
December 10, 2012

Last week, California took another step to protect its status as the nation’s leading safe haven for illegal immigrants. Attorney General Kamala Harris issued guidance that will allow local law enforcement officers to ignore, if they chose, Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers issued under Secure Communities guidelines. Ironically, Harris’s predecessor and current California governor Jerry Brown supported the federal legislation.

Under Secure Communities, local law enforcement officials send all arrestees’ fingerprints to ICE. If the person is a suspected illegal alien, ICE can issue a “detainer” that authorizes police to hold the person for 48 hours awaiting transfer to federal custody for possible deportation. ICE insists that local participation is mandatory; Harris disagrees. During her press conference, Harris said:

“The federal government cannot mandate that these chiefs and sheriffs hold onto immigrants because of the request for detainer. The police chiefs and sheriffs have it within their discretion — within their authority — to honor that request or not.”

California’s sheriffs have interpreted Harris’ opinion differently. In the most heavily alien-populated community, Los Angles, LA County Sheriff Lee Baca, often in favor of ignoring the law when it pertains to immigration enforcement, said he will no longer honor federal detainers. L.A. sheriff Charlie Beck has always refused to comply. But Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas says he doesn’t plan any immediate changes and called on the county to do a legal analysis because Harris’ directive contradicts federal policy. Earlier this year, the California State Sheriffs Association issued a statement backing Secure Communities. Nick Warner, the CSSA’s legislative director, said his organization is “unalterably and vehemently opposed” to ending Secure Communities.

Nevertheless, last week Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) announced that he will introduce a slightly revised version of the Trust Act which guts Secure Communities with the hope that Harris’ opinion will persuade Brown to sign it. Earlier this year, Brown vetoed the Trust Act. With the Democrats enjoying a super-majority in the Assembly, Ammiano’s bill is certain to hit Brown’s desk soon.

Harris and others who advocate for more liberal immigration policies ignore the simple fact that when criminals are released, many of the return to commit more crimes. The Congressional Research Service, at the request of House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith, studied ICE records from 2008-2011. During that period, Secure Communities flagged 159,000 non-citizens. During the three-year period studied, from a group of 59,000 that ICE released, 58,000 new crimes were committed studied including murder, attempted murder and drug violations.

Overlooked in the debate is that Secure Communities was not established to only apprehend illegal aliens felons. The original purpose is for ICE to be able to learn if detainees are illegally residing in the United States. If so, ICE can then evaluate whether the detainees should be deported.

Arguments against Secure Communities are based on misinformation and speculation. In her press conference, Harris presented the hypothetical case of an alien rape victim who in an effort to flag down a law enforcement vehicle instead inadvertently stopped an ICE officer and ended up deported. Another favorite argument against Secure Communities is that it creates an unhealthy relationship between the immigrant community and police— more hearsay that has no evidence to substantiate it. Secure Communities is the dividing line between those who are committed to enforcing immigration law and those who say they are committed but whose actions, in fact, prove otherwise.

The California Assembly falls into the latter category, determined to protect criminal aliens, and put innocent citizens at risk for the purpose of advancing its radical agenda.


Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow whose columns have been syndicated since 1986. Contact him at [email protected]

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