Santa Clara Co. board of supervisors struggle with sanctuary laws

Santa Clara County’s Board of Supervisors are poised to take action impacting how and when federal agents are notified about an inmates' impending release from jail.

The brutal murder of South San Jose resident Bambi Larson in February was a crime that continues to produce consequences. Tuesday, Santa Clara County supervisors considered amending the county’s sanctuary law.

“If there’s something that’s gonna save a life, put it in place right away. The problem is it’s very, very difficult to 'operationalize' any changes given the various rules that we have to comport with,” said David Cortese, the county's District 3 supervisor.

San Jose police say surveillance video shows 24-year-old suspect Carlos Arevalo-Carranza casing the neighborhood the night of the crime. He allegedly entered Larson’s home and stabbed her multiple times, killing the 59-year-old. Records show Carranza, from El Salvador, is in the country illegally, and has a long criminal history.

“I can’t understand. He’s been arrested, why wasn’t he turned over to ICE?,” said neighbor Ann Marshall shortly after the crime.

Santa Clara is a sanctuary county, but officials want local laws to mirror the state’s Sanctuary Law.

Currently, federal agents will only be notified of a detained inmates release if that person has violated any of 31 specified violent crimes. Supervisor Mark Wasserman looks to change the process, asking for expedited approval to have detainees with violent criminal records, and those with arrest warrants, handed over to ICE. This, after South Bay police chiefs asked the board to reconsider its policy.

“We have to take steps to make our neighborhoods safer. And this is just one step. We need to do a whole lot more,” said San Jose Dist. 10 City Councilman Johnny Khamis. He supports the Wasserman, fast-track approach..

Critics worry handing over inmates to federal agents who are being detained, but who don’t have an arrest warrant, will lead to abuse.

“I worry about the potential racist impact that it could have. How are you going to determine who’s going to be held after their release and who isn’t? It’s gonna have to be done by questioning their immigration status,” said Ron Cabanayan, a San Jose-based immigration attorney.

Such questions would be illegal under county and state law.

The board of supervisors will begin debating the two proposals – the fast tracked approach, and one that would require the establishment of a committee to further study the problem -- on Tuesday.  

If the fast track is taken, a vote to change the law wouldn’t come for another 30 days.