Recent announcements by President Donald Trump and directives issued by the Department of Homeland Security have raised questions about what role local law enforcement will play in enforcing national immigration policy. Within our immigrant communities, those policies have created significant fear and anxiety, so I thought it is important to explain just how the Marin County Sheriff’s Office interacts with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.
The sheriff’s office works with and supports the operations of many different federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. That cooperation can range from active participation in specific enforcement actions to a simple sharing of information, the goal of both being to ensure the safety of our communities.
To that end, and over the past two weeks, staff from the sheriff’s office has met with Congressman Jared Huffman, leaders of the Novato and San Rafael school districts, members of the Canal Alliance and Canal Welcome Center, as well as regional business leaders represented by the North Bay Leadership Council, all of whom recognize the important role immigrant communities play in the continued economic and social vitality of Marin County.
The success of any law enforcement agency rests almost exclusively in its ability to gain the trust and confidence of the communities it serves. The Marin County Sheriff’s Office is no different, and the men and women of this department work hard every day to earn that trust, understanding our interests are inexorably intertwined with those of the people we serve—all of the people we serve, not just some.
No one need fear calling my department for help or assistance, regardless of where you were born or how you came to be in this country. Your legal status plays no role whatsoever in how we respond or how you will be treated. Everyone will be met with dignity and respect, as those are two of the core principles upon which this agency is built and in which we gauge our overall success.
The Marin County Sheriff’s Office policy is clear; no person will be contacted, detained or arrested solely on the basis of his or her immigration status. The sheriff’s office does not, and will not, participate in any generalized ICE enforcement efforts. In fact, our policy specifically forbids participation in sweeps intended solely to locate and detain undocumented immigrants.
One question I’m often asked is what interaction with ICE occurs if a person is arrested and booked into the county jail. Here too, deputies do not ask any questions related to immigration status. However, as a routine part of the booking process, an inmate’s fingerprints are captured and sent to various law enforcement partners. Those partners include the California Department of Justice and the F.B.I. ICE is a secondary recipient of fingerprint information.
When ICE communicates an intention to interview someone housed in the Marin County Jail, that interview does not take place until the inmate has been given written notice that participation in an interview is the sole discretion of the inmate and, if he or she decides to participate, an attorney can be present.
Any ICE request for continued detention beyond an inmate’s normal release date will be honored only in cases involving violent crimes, consistent with state law that narrowly defines the types of crimes that make an inmate subject to further detention, such as murder, rape or felonies involving the use of a firearm. Even then, a warrant or order of probable cause issued by a federal judge or magistrate is required.
This practice is consistent with the sheriff’s office’s commitment to protect residents from violent predators who threaten the peace and safety of the communities we serve.
In some instances, ICE may request the release date of an inmate for whom they have not sought an order of detention. In those cases, the sheriff’s office will provide that information to ICE, as it would to any other member of the public. Indeed, release dates are a matter of public record and, pursuant to the California Public Records Act, must be disclosed if asked. Jail staff will, however, take no other actions to alert ICE to the inmate’s pending release.
Consistent with our continued effort at operational transparency, I have posted copies of the two policies that govern how we interact with ICE to our website. They may be found at marinsheriff.org/services/forms.
Robert T. Doyle has served as the county’s sheriff since 1996.