Data shows ICE arrests drop in Kern; advocates remain critical of KCSO involvement

May 15, 2019 /

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested fewer detainees from Kern County jails in 2018 than in 2017, according to the Kern County Sheriff’s Office.

KCSO Chief Deputy Tyson Davis said during the Truth Act Forum Monday ICE arrests dropped by 23 percent in 2018.

In 2018, ICE made 597 requests for notification of release, and of those, ICE arrested 374 individuals from Kern jails — a drop from the 486 individuals arrested in 2017.

“It may be down a little bit from the year before, but if you’re talking about a number greater than 365 — which is what we’re talking about today — you’re talking about more than one immigration arrest on average per day,” said American Civil Liberty Union attorney Jordan Wells.

KCSO released the data at Kern’s second Truth Act Forum, held Monday and Tuesday. Sheriff Donny Youngblood was not present at Monday’s forum but attended Tuesday’s forum.

The California Transparent Review of Unjust Transfers and Holds (TRUTH) Act, passed into law in September of 2016, provides vital “know your rights” information to immigrants who are in ICE custody and brings transparency to local law enforcement participations in federal immigration enforcement.

A community forum is just one requirement of the act.

KCSO does not hold inmates past the date of their release or delay their release; does not ask about individuals their immigration status; does not provide ICE access to KCSO databases; does not enforce federal immigration law or deport individuals; and does not participate in immigration sweeps, KCSO officials said at the forum.

However, the department does cooperate with ICE as allowed by law. It notifies inmates ICE requested notification of their release.

Wells said he thinks the community remains angry at KCSO’s involvement with ICE.

“California has one of the strongest sanctuary state laws in the country, and yet the jails are still crawling with ICE agents, and the sheriff’s office communicate daily with ICE about their inmates and how to facilitate an arrest and deportation.”

KCSO received criticism from many community members at both forums.

Ambar Tovar, an attorney for the United Farm Workers Foundation, said data from October 2017 to May 2018 shows ICE enforcement is very prevalent in Kern. The county ranked number 25 in the country in ICE arrests, Tovar told the Board of Supervisors during the public comment period.

Octavio Barajas, a Bakersfield College professor, asked the board how it will address the concerns of the community.

“Do you take into account the voices of the community that is saying we need more protection,” he asked the board. “Ultimately it’s the good, honest people that are paying from the failures of a broken immigration system.”

“The board needs to take a stance,” Barajas said.

Wells said the supervisors play an important role when addressing ICE in Kern.

“They need to continue to insist that the sheriff’s office be transparent going forward with how they’re collaborating with ICE,” Wells said. “They also have supervision with the sheriff’s office, and they can use that power to make sure that the sheriff is in keeping with sanctuary state laws.”

Bakersfield College student Edith Matta, a citizen who lives in a mixed-status household, told the board stories of her undocumented classmates. She said they share the same dreams as her but live in fear because of their status.

“Our government has failed to create a workable immigration process,” she said. “We need the immigrant community to trust the local law enforcement and not live in fear of them working with ICE.”

Wells said, “Today is an important day in terms of transparency, but now the community is asking for the sheriff’s office to withhold and pull back for the level of collaboration that they’re engaging with ICE.”

Sheriff Deputies prepare to represent Sheriff Donny Youngblood, who was not in attendance the first day at the Truth forum. PHOTO BY LIZETTE CHAVEZ
Supervisor Mick Gleason prepares to sit at the Truth Act Forum. PHOTO BY LIZETTE CHAVEZ

RELATED CONTENT: ACLU critical of sheriff’s office at first Truth Act Forum

South Kern Sol is a youth-led journalism organization in Kern County. In their stories, youth reporters shine light on health and racial disparities in under-served communities across Kern. For more stories by South Kern Sol, head to southkernsol.org.

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Alejandra Alberto

Alejandra Alberto is a youth reporter for South Kern Sol. She attends CSUB.