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Fresno Sheriff Says No Inmates Were Transferred To ICE; Some Still Critical Of Public Release Dates

Monica Velez
Valley Public Radio
Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims presents data on 2018 Immigrations and Customs Enforcement activity in the county jail at a board of supervisors meeting.

Dozens of people packed the Fresno County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday to hear Sheriff Margaret Mims present data on 2018 Immigration and Customs Enforcement activity in the county jail. Although Mims was clear her office didn’t hand anyone over to ICE, most community members at the forum were critical of her support for the agency and the timing of the event. 


“They (the county) made little to no effort to make this more accessible to the community because at the end of the day this is a public forum intended for the public to know what the sheriff is doing,” said Jennifer Rojas, who is with the advocacy group ICE Out of Fresno.


Rojas said she was “disappointed” the supervisors didn’t change the timing of the meeting to make it more accessible to the community. The supervisors should have held the forum in the late afternoon when people get off work or provided childcare services for parents, she said. 


“A lot of the public was discouraged from being here. Our communities didn't feel safe, didn’t feel welcome," she said.


Multiple people who spoke during the public comment period said they didn’t know about the forum until a day or two before. 


But Fresno County PIO Jordan Scott said the board meeting is the appropriate time and place to hold the forum and it’s advertised in advance on the county website. 


Since last year, the Transparent Review of Unjust Transfers and Holds Act, or the TRUTH Act, requires local governments to have forums every year with law enforcement agencies to share any involvement they have with ICE.


Sheriff Margaret Mims said the department complies with all state laws but she said she will continue to be vocal about her opposition toward state laws that limit the involvement local agencies can have with ICE.


“It does not help keep our communities safe when we cannot communicate about criminals in our communities that prey on members of our community,” Mims said. 


SB-54, also known as the Sanctuary State Law, limits involvement between local law enforcement and ICE. Mims has been publically critical of the bill in the past. 


Out of 31,052 jail bookings the sheriff’s department received 661 ICE detainer requests. That’s a written request that asks local jails to detain someone after their release date for an additional 48 hours. However, Mims said the detainer requests were not processed because at least two court decisions found the requests to be unconstitutional because of due process violations.


ICE did not conduct any interviews with inmates, she said, and although the data show three people were transferred from the jail to ICE custody, the sheriff's department was not involved. Mims said ICE took the inmates when they were in the lobby of the jail, which isn’t considered a transfer. 


“When these people are released they walk out into the lobby and ICE takes them into custody,” Mims said, adding that unless ICE comes into the secure area of the jail, it's not considered a transfer. 


Marisela Sanchez, with the ACLU of Northern California, said it’s a “terrible practice” the sheriff’s department puts inmate release dates on its website.  


“The sheriff’s action is out of step with our values, compassion, humanity, and community,” Sanchez said. “Publishing release dates is a cruel attempt to undermine the California Values Act or SB-54 opening the door to painful due process abuses and racial profiling.”


Mims said the department has had inmate release dates on its website for the last ten years. The information is public, she said. She said the department does not give inmate release dates directly to ICE.

Monica Velez was a reporter at Valley Public Radio. She started out as a print reporter covering health issues in Merced County at the Merced Sun-Star.