Alameda County ICE transfers decrease as sheriff’s office continues cooperation

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Caroline Lobel/Staff
Alameda County Sheriff's Office has had decreased rates of transfers to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, despite continuing to cooperate with the federal agency on selective cases.

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The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, or ACSO, has not transferred any people to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in 2021, but Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern is continuing to collaborate with the immigration agency in certain cases.

Rates of transfers from Alameda County to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, custody has declined every year, with only eight transfers in 2020, according to Sgt. Ray Kelly, a spokesperson for ACSO. He added that ACSO presumes a low rate will stay stagnant.

Despite the decline, Ahern is still choosing to cooperate with ICE with regard to transfers in cases in which his office is allowed to under state law.

“He is our elected sheriff, and that is his decision to make,” Kelly said. “When and where he’s allowed to legally cooperate, he does under SB 54 state law.”

ICE transfers from Alameda County are determined by specifications in SB 54, or Senate Bill 54. It prohibits both state and local law enforcement from “using money or personnel to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect, or arrest persons for immigration enforcement purposes,” with some exceptions, according to the legislation.

While ACSO will continue to comply with SB 54, Ahern believes transferring people to ICE custody allows for a smoother and safer arrest than if the federal immigration agency were to arrest people directly from the community, according to Kelly.

“Our elected sheriff believes that when legally appropriate and he can by law, work with the federal authorities, whatever agency that is, he does so in the interest of public safety,” Kelly said.

ACSO determines whether it will respond to ICE transfer requests using a criterion that considers factors such as prior convictions, type of crime and where in the criminal justice process an individual’s case resides, among others.

While there have been no transfers this year, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín condemned the ACSO’s willingness to cooperate with ICE in an email.

Their cooperation, Arreguín said, goes against the City of Berkeley’s values as a “sanctuary city.” He noted that the city’s policies state that no city employee should use funding or resources to assist the enforcement of federal immigration law.

“While the number of people who have been transferred from the county jail to ICE has been decreasing, the fact that the sheriff’s office continues to collaborate with ICE despite overwhelming opposition to this policy in the community is unacceptable and goes against our values,” Arreguín said in an email.

Contact Molly Cochran at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @mollyacochran .