Woman facing deportation because Alameda sheriff's deputies notified ICE, attorneys say

- An Oakland woman is facing deportation after Alameda County sheriff's deputies alerted federal immigration agents that she was being released from jail, her attorneys say.

Maria Ortega, an undocumented immigrant, ended up at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin after being arrested in January for having heroin in her Oakland home.

Ortega told the sheriff's deputies who arrested her that the drugs belonged to the father of her daughter. The charges against Ortega, a 51-year-old tamale seller, were eventually dismissed by Alameda County prosecutors.

But Ortega, who has no criminal history, is still facing civil deportation proceedings because of what her attorneys say happened to her at the jail.

After her arrest, a Superior Court judge allowed her to be released on bail. But instead, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent met her inside the release section of the jail and arrested her.

One of her attorneys, Saira Hussain blames the sheriff's office for tipping off federal officials.

"It was a spontaneous release," Hussain said. "The judge had ordered her released on her own recognizance. ICE shouldn't have known that she was going to be released then, unless sheriff's deputies communicated to them about her release."

But sheriff's Sgt. Ray Kelly said ,"To say that all of a sudden we turned someone over to ICE without due process, without being within the sanctuary law would be inaccurate."

Kelly says he doesn't have specifics as to what may have happened to Ortega.

But he says deputies don't share information with ICE, unless the inmates are wanted for very specific reasons, or if there's a warrant signed by a federal judge.

"ICE actually does not like come into jails in Alameda County or in the Bay Area because they do not get any cooperation out of us," Kelly said.

But another attorney for Ortega says that doesn't help her client. Ortega spent four months in ICE custody and is still facing civil deportation proceedings.

"Sanctuary law violations have devastating consequences for our clients. They can catapult individuals and their families into a deportation crisis that cannot be undone," said Raha Jorjani, supervising immigration defense attorney with the Alameda County public defender's office. 

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