Orange County Sheriff Says Sanctuary Laws Protect Many Repeat Offenders

February 5, 2020 Updated: February 5, 2020

When California became a sanctuary state in 2017, restrictions drafted in Senate Bill 54 prohibited law enforcement agencies from communicating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) upon arrest of undocumented immigrants.

In year two with the law in effect, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department recorded a 38 percent increase in recidivism for undocumented immigrants released from custody, the department announced Monday.

“SB 54 has made OC less safe. The 2 year social science experiment with sanctuary laws must end,” Sheriff Don Barnes said in a tweet. “Rather than protect our immigrant community, the law has enabled offenders to be released, often times back into the immigrant communities they prey upon, and create new victims.”

Last year, 1,507 individuals released from the Orange County jail had ICE detainers, which are written requests for local law enforcement agents to hold inmates for an additional 48 hours after their sentence release date to give ICE more time to determine whether to take them into federal custody for deportation.

Of the 1,507 inmates released, only 492 were reported to ICE. Out of the remaining 1,015 inmates, 238 individuals were arrested again for new crimes. Charges included burglary, battery, domestic violence, trespassing, and driving under the influence, among others. The highest offense, at 88 charges, was drug-related.

“The law has resulted in new crimes because my deputies were unable to communicate with their federal partners about individuals who committed serious offenses and present a threat to our community if released,” Sheriff Barnes said in a press release.

Similar statistics were seen in 2018. Of the 1,823 Orange County inmates with ICE detainers that year, Orange County law enforcement released 823 to federal agents. Of the remaining 1,106, 173 committed new crimes.

Supporters of SB 54 argue that not cooperating with ICE will make undocumented immigrants feel safer calling law enforcement for help. Otherwise, in times of danger they may not call out of fear they will be detained and deported.

In regards to this concern, Sheriff Barnes said, “If you call for help, we will be there for you. We will not be subjecting anyone to any inquiry regarding your immigration status.”