After much debate, Santa Clara County supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday not to change the current immigration policy.
Santa Clara County is one of the only communities in the country that refuses to hold any inmates unless U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, pays for the cost of detaining them, and that's something ICE refuses to do.
The result of the county’s 2011 policy? No holds on undocumented immigrants, even if they’re gang members, or have been arrested or convicted of violent crimes.
Many immigrants and activists applauded Tuesday’s decision, but for Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen it was a disappointment. Rosen argued before the supervisors that the current policy puts public safety at risk.
“Because we have released back into the community dozens of individuals previously convicted of serious and violent offenses, such as murder, it does not make us safer. It makes us less safe,” Rosen said.
About 60 people shared their thoughts about the proposed changes, which would have reversed the county’s two-year-old policy. Most were against them. They argue public safety has actually improved since the no-hold policy went into effect in 2011.
“People become scared to cooperate if ICE is cooperating with local law enforcement,” said the Immigrant Legal Resource Center’s Grisel Ruiz. “But, since they are not, they are reporting crimes and assisting with investigations because they don’t have a fear of deportation.”
Others argued that changing the policy to allow undocumented immigrants who had been arrested or convicted of violent crimes would unfairly create a two-tier justice system.
“You cannot have a two-tier criminal justice system,” said Samina Sundas, founder of American Muslim Voice. “You have to have equality in every aspect of life.”