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Public safety: the critical sanctuary phrase

Posted on March 20, 2017 by Fred Allebach

After months of working on this, I have finally figured it out. Most controversial issues come down to one weasel word-type phrase. This phrase is usually a glittering generality that allows the central issue to be framed in ways that reflect the differing interests of the parties involved.

For the sanctuary issue the glittering generality is PUBLIC SAFETY. Public safety is being framed in different ways by the Sheriff’s Office (SO) and by sanctuary advocates.

Sanctuary boils down to level of cooperation with ICE

Sanctuary can be many things; there is no one definition. However, if a sanctuary declaration is to have any teeth, the bite comes down to the level of Sheriff’s Office cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This level of cooperation with ICE hinges on how various views of public safety are framed.

Folks who want to effectively advocate for sanctuary-type policies from the SO need to learn why the SO is framing the public safety issue in particular ways. This has to do with a host of issues and definitions revolving around JUSTICE. Justice in this case has to do with whether a person is innocent until proven guilty, is charged with a crime, has been convicted of previous crimes, can legally make bail and/or be released, if there is warrant to hold them, etc.

As a corollary, if the SO wants to advocate for a particular level of cooperation with ICE based on public safety, the SO needs to understand why sanctuary advocates are framing things in ways less strict than maybe the Sheriff would like.

Stakeholders need to be clear on their values

In both cases, a public vetting of the issues will be made much clearer if each party can display a fluency in the content of the other’s positions.  This is what I have been doing for the last three months. Sometimes it takes a while to uncover the core issues.

For the core issues around immigration and ICE cooperation to come out and be understood, and for there to be a productive public discussion of what is really at stake, the parties involved will have to become conscious of how they are framing public safety. Framing locks parties into seeing only one set of “facts.” Becoming conscious of framing necessarily means having to widen your perspective.

Can we be honest about partisan politics?

Asking parties to become conscious of how they are framing issues is, in this case, asking people to get to the center of how current partisan politics is made. The SO, and the sanctuary advocating public are both hammers, and to them, the whole world looks like nails. In the public safety case, there are different types of nails. It could be tough to bridge the gap if what we have is a covert struggle between strict father and nurturing parent morality.

We’re all decent and reasonable people

No issue is cut, clean and dry. For the purposes of this essay, I am going to assume that SO deputies and sanctuary advocates are all decent, reasonable people of good will. Everyone has their foibles. Some may want to say all police are biased to the prosecution, or that all liberals are biased to the defense; or that racial profiling is common, and people can be pulled over for driving while Mexican, or that all liberals are unrealistic, soft, pointy-headed tree huggers and do-gooders who just need to get a real job. I’m going to leave all that on the side here and just deal with a proscribed set of points and issues about the framing of public safety. To get to any common ground, stereotypes need to be laid down by all parties. To get beyond stereotypes, we, those of us with a stake in the sanctuary-immigration-SO cooperation with ICE issue, need to be fearlessly honest about who we are and what animates our positions and interests.

What the Sheriff’s Office is already doing for sanctuary

It is known that the SO does not enforce federal immigration law while in the field, i.e. on patrol. The SO, due to the 2014 California Trust Act, does not detain inmates for ICE beyond a date of legal release. These two actions bring the SO about 2/3 of the way to a full-on sanctuary policy. The Sonoma County SO has an immigration status ICE policy posted its website.

Where the Sheriff cooperates with ICE

What remains are the areas that the SO does cooperate with ICE, and why, and where the appropriate line is to stop cooperating. This line has currently two parts. The first has to do with how ICE finds out there are undocumented immigrants in jail, what level of charge (or criminal) is at stake, and if the SO will notify ICE of their release. The second is whether or not to voluntarily notify the foreign consulate if one of their citizens is held.

When a person is booked into jail, their fingerprints are taken. These go to a national database to see if they are wanted for any crimes. If there is any record of being undocumented, ICE then knows such and such person is in the Sonoma County jail. ICE then asks for a voluntary notice of the inmate’s release. Likewise, if a consulate is notified, ICE can get access to that database, knows if such and such person is in the county jail, and can ask the SO to notify them of a release date.

Who are the good guys and bad guys?

This is where different framing of public safety comes in. The bone of contention is this: the SO, and the state Sheriff’s Association want to be strict and basically hold that if you are jail, you are criminal. Sanctuary advocates, including the county Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach (IOLERO) Community Advisory Council (CAC), ask that ICE only be notified for people charged or convicted of certain crimes, below which the SO will not voluntarily notify ICE of the inmate’s release date and time.

How best to gain the public trust?

The SO says public safety is better served by voluntarily notifying ICE of all undocumented immigrants release dates. Sanctuary advocates say public safety is better served when there is the least ICE cooperation possible, because public trust in law enforcement goes up and people are willing to compete with the police and Sheriff on investigations.

This is the current state of affairs. The SO knows that public trust is very important, and has gone to great lengths to assure the undocumented community that field patrols do no immigration enforcement at all. But this is not enough, the undocumented community remains terrified of law enforcement because of how things go once a person is in jail. The SO has said there have only been a handful of ICE (I-247 N) voluntary notifications anyway, so there is not a big problem. Sanctuary advocates and the IOLERO CAC see this otherwise, and hence the debate over how public safety is best served.

Defining gradations of good guys and bad guys

SB-54 (the Values Act) is a California state legislature bill that seeks to prevent state and local resources from being used to carry out Trump’s mass deportation orders. What is in the process of being negotiated, in the SB-54 process, with the state Sheriff’s Association, is what level of crime or charge should be the cut-off point for voluntary notification of ICE, in-jail ICE interviews and notification of consulates? This same crime cut-off point will be addressed by the Sonoma County SO at the next IOLERO CAC meeting on 4/3/17. At stake is how public safety is defined and for what reasons.

Biases revealed

As a writer and reporter, it is difficult for me to be objective on this issue. I’ve lived in Mexico for two years, have a positive impression of the people and culture. I feel Trump’s immigration executive orders are racist, prejudiced, nativist, and xenophobic. The threat to deport 8 million people cannot help but throw under the bus more than 7 million decent people and cause untold human suffering, all for a campaign promise shown to not be based on solid demographic and economic information. I don’t buy in for many, many reasons.

The cost-benefit seems clear, sanctuary is better

As such, my biased opinion, and recommendation on this matter is for the SO to adopt a full sanctuary policy, of the least ICE cooperation as possible, as recommended (see links under Meeting Documentation) by the IOLERO CAC. Public safety will be enhanced much more by having the trust and law enforcement cooperation of the undocumented community (@ 35,000 people), than by notifying ICE of the release of only a handful of people. To gain the trust of a large, fearful community is better than apprehending a few. The overall benefits to further limit voluntary ICE notifications are simply greater in terms of public safety.

Frankly, all parties know that the term sanctuary really boils down to how local law enforcement behaves in relation to ICE. If the SO can legitimately be said to have the highest level of ICE disentanglement possible, this will restore the trust lost because of Trump policy.

Sonoma County electorate numbers supports sanctuary

As far as the barometer of public opinion, for Sheriff Freitas to consider, on whether or not to adopt the IOLERO CAC recommendations, I believe the overwhelming majority of the county electorate will support a sanctuary-level SO policy. This is evidenced by the solidarity statements made by the Board of Supervisors, the cities of Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Sebastopol, Healdsburg, and likely Sonoma. The Windsor police chief has also issued his own solidarity statement. These statements, by the elected representatives of a county who voted overwhelmingly against Trump, stand as a much more substantial representation of public opinion than what transpires in the SO Facebook page. (The Facebook page, and any e-mail contact information, are not listed on the SO website.)

Who does the Sheriff represent?

Different county sheriffs have different stances vis-a-vis immigration. Some are Trump tough, others not. The real question here, is the Sonoma County sheriff on the side of the Sonoma county electorate, or on Trump and ICE’s side? This all comes down to how public safety is framed. This is a debate that needs to be put on the table, and the issues spoken about in a straightforward way.

Go to IOLERO meeting and weigh in

I recommend contacting Sheriff Freitas with your comments and opinion, at 707-565-2781, and attending the next IOLERO CAC meeting on April 3rd, at 5:30, 2550 Ventura Ave., Santa Rosa, at the hearing room. At this meeting, there will be opportunities for public comment, and the SO will respond to the IOLERO CACs sanctuary recommendations.

It is through forums and activities like these that the issues surrounding public safety and voluntary cooperation with ICE by the SO will come out and be understood.



2 thoughts on “Public safety: the critical sanctuary phrase

  1. Fred…

    You are back to rambling. No one likes to listen to a rambler…. I would hire an editor if i was you…

    1. “In Internet slang, a troll is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a forum, or blog) with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal, on-topic discussion, often for the troll’s amusement…. Media attention in recent years has equated trolling with online harassment.” Wikipedia

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