Marin County sheriff under fire for cooperating with ICE

A forum in San Rafael Thursday evening pit the Marin County sheriff against a roomful of immigration rights supporters. 

Sheriff Robert Doyle is under fire for his relationship with Immigration and Custom Enforcement after the Marin County Jail in San Rafael has turned over more than 300 inmates for deportation in four years.

"Even if there are no charges against you, you can still be picked up at the jail," said Lucia Martel-Dow, director of Immigration Legal Services at Canal Alliance. 

Martel-Dow and other advocates have been meeting with  Doyle, and have toured the jail recently, in an effort to bring his practices more in line with SB 54, the state law that allows local law enforcement to cooperate with immigration enforcement only under certain circumstances. 

 Doyle insists he is following the law, though he is no fan of it.

"It's not immigration reform and I think it's very deceptive," Doyle told the Marin County Board of Supervisors.  

Doyle described how, each morning when inmates are released from custody, those of interest to ICE are intercepted in the booking area, and never make it out the front doors. 

"When ICE knows that someone is going to be released, they notify us they're going to pick them up," explained Doyle, "and we do that exchange in the jail. We've never been dishonest about that." 

The sheriff is at odds with the supervisors, who have already aligned Marin with other counties to defend California sanctuary law from Trump administration challenges. 

Data detailed by Doyle show that in 2017, Marin County  jailers notified ICE about the release of 137 inmates, and arrested 68 of them. So far this year, the jail informed ICE of 172 undocumented inmates, and 65 of those were detained. 

"Not one more, not one more," chanted protestors outside the Civic Center before the forum. 

In speeches, they said Doyle's coordination with ICE runs contrary to other Bay Area jails, and Marin values.  

Under pressure, the sheriff last week softened his stance slightly. 

From now on, the jail will only notify ICE of an inmate's release when he has been charged - or convicted- of a serious or violent crime. 

But because all booking information is online, there is a loophole.   

"If ICE does call us, we will provide the information over the phone and the reason is, we are required by law to share public information." 

Advocates say county leaders must pressure the sheriff to distance himself from ICE- despite his reluctance.   

"Local law enforcement is upholdng a deportation system that demeans, terrorizes, incarcerates and destroys immigrants and their families," declared Lisa Bennett, co-founder of ICE out of Marin.   

The sheriff found one supporter in the crowd, a career prosecutor, now retired. 

"Sheriff Doyle, do your job and enforce the law," exclaimed Adrian Ivancevich, "if you protect the criminals, we're going to remember."

Ivancevich complained that many crimes, including sexual battery, domestic violence and DUI, do not rise to the level of alerting ICE. 

No action was taken at the conclusion of the three-hour meeting. 

The "Truth Act" forums are required of all 58 counties in California, as a way to disclose local law enforcement information on ICE and invite public comment. 

Other than his budget, Marin County supervisors have no control over Doyle's jail practices, but he is an elected official.