When Attorney General Jeff Sessions traveled to Sacramento two weeks ago to tell law enforcement officials why the federal government was suing California over its sanctuary laws, he was greeted by protesters in the streets and a tongue lashing by Gov. Jerry Brown.
But some law enforcement officials in California agree with Mr. Sessions that sanctuary policies go too far. The California State Sheriffs’ Association has been consistently opposed to one of the sanctuary laws, Senate Bill 54, which limits cooperation between state and federal authorities when minor crimes are involved.
We spoke with Sheriff Bill Brown of Santa Barbara County, who is president of the association and attended Mr. Sessions’s speech. (Our chat has been edited and condensed below.)
Q. On what grounds do you oppose SB 54?
A. We believe that it has a negative impact on public safety. And we believe that fundamentally it is wrong to limit communication between federal law enforcement agencies and law enforcement officers regardless of their jurisdiction.
Q. What does SB 54 restrict you from doing?
A. We want to make sure that we do not unnecessarily release people from custody who could otherwise be removed from the country if they are criminals, if they have a likelihood of reoffending or re-victimizing people in our communities.
Q. The law allows state law enforcement to communicate with federal immigration authorities in the case of serious crimes. You think the list of crimes isn’t broad enough?
A. That’s correct. For example, repeat drunk driving — you get someone who is arrested two or three times; domestic battery, assault on a peace officer; animal cruelty or abuse; serial theft — someone who has been arrested multiple times for shoplifting.
Q. You are also concerned about gang members.
A. If someone is in custody — and it could be for a minor offense — and if that person is a known member of a gang that is a criminal enterprise, like MS-13 for example, we see no reason why that person should be released back into the community. We should be able to contact ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] before releasing them.