Broken families. Constant fear. Double punishment. “You are not welcome here.”
The immigrant community, our members, and allies have little to celebrate this holiday season because the Sheriff’s Office still chooses to collaborate with ICE.
Despite this reality, we embrace and give gratitude to the solidarity between immigrant families, allied community members, and organizations that continue to defend the dignity and safety of immigrant neighbors who call Sonoma County their home.
On November, Friday, 17, 2023, NBOP’s Immigrant Defense Task Force submitted the following coalition letter to the editor of the Press Democrat’s ‘Close to Home’ column.
Immigrant families and allies hold signs at the 2023 TRUTH Act Forum in the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chambers that read: "I.C.E. – NO, COMUNIDAD – SI." (Lina Blanco-Ogden/North Bay Organizing Project)
The Truth was missing at the TRUTH Act Forum
It is distressing and unconscionable for a Pulitzer-prize-winning newspaper like the Press Democrat to spread disinformation through its Editorial Board. The editorial, "Sheriff can't ignore immigration law” published on Oct. 20, erroneously describes the public’s right to knowledge under the TRUTH Act. The TRUTH Act (Transparent Review of Unjust Transfers and Holds) is a statewide law enacted in 2018 after a successful campaign led by immigrant leaders and allies in California. Contrary to the information in your editorial, this law does not require county jails to cooperate with U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE). Rather, the law imposes serious limitations on how and when local law enforcement can cooperate with ICE, and requires them to be accountable to the communities they serve. This accountability takes place when the Sheriff issues an annual report and responds to community concerns at a TRUTH Act forum.
Cooperation with ICE is Sheriff Engram's choice, not a requirement under state law. Because he reports community members to ICE, the Sheriff is required by law to disclose the content of his cooperation in a community forum. This year, Sheriff Eddie Engram did not bother to attend the TRUTH Act Forum, nor answer any questions from the public. To the public, it appears he does not consider himself accountable to the Board of Supervisors nor to the residents of Sonoma County. Instead, the Sheriff produced a statement to the Press Democrat, incorrectly stating that the Department only reports “serious and violent felonies” to ICE. We know this to be false. The Sheriff’s Department has been giving this distorted statement for years. The Press Democrat quoted the Sheriff’s statement in its article, "Immigrant advocates want Sonoma County Sheriff to halt all cooperation with ICE as new report shows spike in jail responses." But the article did not compare the Sheriff's statement with a review of how his policy is actually implemented, as reported by immigration lawyers and community members.
The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office has consistently violated requirements of the TRUTH Act because of inaccuracies and a lack of transparency. Sonoma County’s TRUTH Act annual reports do not explain what type of information has been sent to ICE. Without access to that information, the Board of Supervisors cannot ensure compliance with state law. Attorneys in the Sonoma Public Defender’s Office and Conflict Panel have observed violations of the TRUTH Act nearly every year, which also have the potential of costing Sonoma County hundreds of thousands of dollars.
We are calling upon the Board of Supervisors to facilitate a thorough discussion of our Sheriff's cooperation with ICE in their Significant Item Agenda. Sonoma County’s Board of Supervisors has the power and opportunity to follow the example of numerous California counties that prohibit any agency in Sonoma County from cooperating with ICE. Other counties that have created ordinances that end or severely limit their Sheriff's cooperation with ICE, include Santa Clara, Humboldt, San Francisco, Contra Costa, Marin, San Mateo, Alameda, San Joaquin, Santa Cruz, and Los Angeles counties.
We invite the Board of Supervisors to live out our community values by keeping immigrant people and families in our community safe. By cooperating with ICE and spreading misinformation, the Sheriff perpetuates the level of fear and distrust that immigrants, our families, neighbors, and community experience. ICE has a history of terrorizing people and tearing apart Sonoma County families. Our communities are harmed, not helped, by Sheriff Engram's cooperation with ICE. His policies create the possibility that families will be separated, and discourage immigrant people from reporting crimes or coming forward as a witness.
ALMAS Libres Corazon Healdsburg Health Professionals for Equality and Community Empowerment Immigrant Defense Task Force of the North Bay Organizing Project Sonoma Immigrant Services North Bay Jobs with Justice North Bay Organizing Project North Bay Rapid Response Network Raizes Collective