South Bay officials mull changing sanctuary policy

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) -- It is a controversial topic, made more so by the recent death of Kate Steinle in San Francisco. What should the relationship be between local law enforcement, and federal immigration officials?

Now several counties are rethinking their positions, among them Santa Clara County.

Twice before, Santa Clara County has rejected the idea of cooperating with ICE. But this time, might be different. A committee took public comment on the matter Monday.

For Cecilia Chavez, who is undocumented, this fight is personal.

"There's no middle ground for the immigrant community. It's either you collaborate or you don't," said Chavez.

There were those in strong support of a change, prompted in part by the death of Kate Steinle in San Francisco.

"It doesn't make any sense to let violent criminals on our streets if we have a choice," said resident Howard Meyers.

And there were those who say a change in policy will do more harm than good.

"All this is going to do is to send us back into shadows and we're going to be afraid to call police authority when a crime is being done to us," said one woman who spoke during public comment.

Santa Clara County officials say they might support notifying ICE, but only when the most serious offenders are about to leave their custody. And they say they will not detain those people on ICE's behalf. 

"For that group of people the county should notify ice when they're being released, so that those individuals don't go back into communities and our county and victimize future people," said District Attorney Jeff Rosen.

"We will not hold people a minute longer than there normally scheduled release date. That we're very, very firm with," said Sheriff Laurie Smith.

The committee, which included law enforcement officials as well as immigration advocates, will now pass a report on to the board of supervisors. But there was no recommended course of action.

"Any step that I vote for is going to have to be measured by making sure we have the safest environment for people who live and work and play in our community, and doing it in a way that respects civil law," said Cindy Chavez, member of the Board of Supervisors.

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors is set to take up the matter on September 15th.

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