Alameda County Supervisors Discourage Sheriff From Detaining Undocumented Residents

ALCO BOARD OF SUPERVISORS | A resolution by Alameda County Supervisor Richard Valle discouraging the county sheriff from honoring request from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain undocumented residents in the county passed, 3-1, Tuesday afternoon despite the hearing being called a “farce” by fellow Supervisor Scott Haggerty.

The issue of Secure Communities, a federal program that has raised controversy since its enactment in 2008 for allegedly targeting undocumented residents and deporting them, in some cases, for violating something as simple, as minor traffic violations. Valle, who represents Alameda County’s heavily Hispanic District 2, says the issue is creating fear among his constituents.

“They have families. They have families in our schools. They work in our hotel and our restaurants. They work as care-givers,” said Valle. “Some of them are my neighbors and friends and a lot of them have fear of Secure Communities because they don’t want to get swooped up in that net.”

Valle said he met with Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern on Monday morning and found the meeting positive. “I think the one point the sheriff and I saw eye-to-eye was the issue that the Secure Communities, as it is currently used in this country and Alameda County, has been victimizing a lot of people.” Valle added many are accused of minor offenses, non-serious crimes and “do not present a clear danger to our society.”

Under Secure Communities, an offshoot of the Patriot Act, local law enforcement agency are required to offer fingerprints to a regional data repository, which then can be later accessed by other agencies. However, critics say the program is being used to target undocumented residents. When unable to produce proper identification, some undocumented residents are detained and many times not charged for any crimes. However, deportation proceeding are often set in motion, which can split up undocumented parents from their American-born children. It also has the unintended effect, critics say, of discouraging undocumented residents who are witnesses or victims of crimes from coming forward to authorities for fear of being detained.

The resolution passed Tuesday is symbolic, Valle noted, and does not preclude the sheriff from continuing to honor ICE detainers. Instead, it sends a message to the state and federal authorities that Secure Communities is not working as it was intended five years ago, Valle said. San Francisco County, Santa Clara County and Berkeley have previously passed similar resolution against ICE detainers and Secure Communities.

Berkeley Council member Jesse Arreguin called Secure Communities a social justice issue. “Our brothers and sisters are living in the shadows due to a broken immigration policy,” he said. “SComm divides families, creates fear in our undocumented community and does not improve public safety.”

Supervisor Scott Haggerty, who said he also met with Ahern on Monday, registered the only dissenting vote against Valle’s resolution. Supervisor Nate Miley was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

Haggerty took great offense to what he label “Little League politics” coming from Valle’s office over the resolution. Haggerty claimed he never saw the resolution’s text and for that reason, was prepared to ask for Tuesday’s agenda item to be continued to its next meeting. He later claimed Valle’s office told him they were prepared to issue a press release Tuesday blaming Haggerty for asking for a continuance of the resolution.

“I have to tell you I have never been subject to such Little League politics in all my life,” Haggerty said. “It is a very sad day when members of this very board play internal politics and games to keep their own personal agenda moving forward. It is reckless and it is disrespectful.”

Ultimately, Haggerty chose not to ask the board to continue the item, but proceeded to unleash a sometimes dramatic, often times discombobulated 10-minute speech, at one point stating rhetorically, “I probably have just as many undocumented friends as you do.”

“I am not anti-immigration,” said Haggerty. “I don’t care if you’re from Mexico, Bosnia, China, Africa, you want to be here? Why do you want to be here? The same reason why my family, when they immigrated from Ireland wanted to be here. We wanted the American Dream and I wanted to help each and every one of you get that, but I’m going to tell you, you don’t get it today! You get a piece of paper that is meaningless.”

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