Alameda County Sheriff under fire, although ICE access to jails declined

The Alameda County sheriff's office came under fire on Monday for its decision to publicly disclose the release dates of inmates from county jails. 

At a public forum, Sheriff Greg Ahern revealed that his office shared information about inmates with federal ICE agents nearly 1,000 last year. And ICE detained 386 inmates upon their release. Some people at the forum accused the sheriff of carrying out racist policies that mostly target Latino immigrants.

“When somebody calls you a racist, or a white supremacist it affects your emotions,” Ahern said. “But they are made from an ignorant point of view.”

Looking more closely at the numbers, the East Bay Express reported that ICE agents have taken 83 people into custody directly out of Alameda County's two jails in 2018, significantly fewer than in prior years. The decline is mainly due to the passage of SB 54, also known as the California Values Act, or state "sanctuary" law. 

But immigrants rights advocates say the sheriff is cooperating in ways that are voluntary, not legally required, and that more can be done to protect immigrants from deportation.

Ahern told the Alameda County Board of Supervisors that while his deputies don't honor ICE "holds" any longer, they still provide information that helps ICE agents make arrests, the Express reported. This includes posting the release dates of all inmates online. This provides ICE agents, who can identify undocumented people through an FBI fingerprint database that the sheriff's data feeds into, with a means of knowing when people be released so that they can make an arrest before the person leaves the jail's property.

Ahern acknowledged that ICE agents can call the Santa Rita Jail or Glenn Dyer Jail to obtain release date and time information that's available to the general public.

Ahern also said his department still allows ICE agents into the jail in a non-public, controlled area known as the release section. 

He said ICE agents have the same access to the release section's non-public areas as other badged officers from agencies like the Oakland Police Department or the FBI so that they can arrest someone. But whereas OPD or the FBI would make an arrest using a criminal warrant, ICE agents are making arrests on federal civil immigration charges, the Express reported.

The sheriff's forum was required under the TRUTH Act, which is a law recently signed by Governor Jerry Brown.