Community members gather at Board of Supervisors meeting to show that they stand with Immigrants

August 24, 2022 /

On Tuesday, the Kern County Board of Supervisors held a community forum for the California Transparent Review of Unjust Transfers and Holds (TRUST) Act during their regularly scheduled 9 a.m. meeting.

During Tuesday’s forum, both the sheriff’s office and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) gave presentations. Following the presentations, the floor was opened to public comments from community members.

During the sheriff’s office presentation, the agency elaborated on what they are and are not allowed to do under the TRUTH Act.

The TRUTH Act is a state law that was implemented in 2017 to establish transparency and reduce the collaborative actions between the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and local law enforcement.

Chief Deputy Erik Levig stated: “The sheriff’s office does not hold inmates past their date of release or delay the release except as allowed by law or policy. The sheriff’s office does not ask individuals about their immigration status or provide ICE with access to our databases. We’re not involved in the enforcement of immigration law, deportations, or immigration sweeps.”

During the ACLU’s presentation, however, Staff Attorney Mayra Joachin said that the sheriff’s office is able to and has held undocumented immigrants past their release date if the sheriff has probable cause or believes that they might commit another crime.

According to the presentation given by the sheriff’s office, Govt. Code 7282.5 established the following as a few charges that qualify under probable cause:

  • Assault to commit a sex crime, rape, or oral copulation
  • Assault with a deadly weapon
  • Assault with intent to commit forcible rape on 18 years or younger
  • Lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14 years
  • Murder
  • Human trafficking to obtain forced labor
  • Domestic violence
  • Robbery
  • Unauthorized use of identifying information of another

These loopholes that are practiced by law enforcement agencies led to the introduction of the VISION Act in the California state 2021 legislative session. The VISION Act would protect community members who have already been deemed eligible for release from being transferred by local jails and state prison systems to immigration detention.

“ICE can’t carry out massive deportations of our community members. They don’t have the staff or the capacity so therefore they rely on sheriffs and other local law enforcement to collaborate with them,” stated Edwin Carmona-Cruz, the Community Engagement Director at California Collaborative for Immigration Justice (CCIJ), during an interview. “The fact that sheriffs are still going around laws like the TRUTH Act like the California Values Act really speaks volumes to where the values of that sheriff are.”

Public comment from local community members followed the conclusion of both presentations.

“I want to share how the California Values Act, while it has reduced cooperation between local law enforcement and ICE, it is merely a floor — it is bare minimum to the level of protection we can provide our community. And there’s no reason to allow the federal government to continue to commandeer local resources in our Kern County Sheriff’s Offices to enforce harmful immigration laws which only result in family separation, prolonged detention, unsafe and unsanitary facilities, and severe trauma,” stated Anna Huerta, lifelong Kern County resident and Executive Manager at the Dolores Huerta Foundation.

Huerta continued to explain that this trauma goes beyond the person being detained and that it affects their family members and community members on the outside.

“We were all once immigrants and if we keep screwing up our environment we will be again. And God help us all if the same system that we’re creating for our immigrants today is the one that awaits us when we have to migrate,” commented Lori Pesante, a civic engagement director with the Dolores Huerta Foundation.

Throughout the public comment section, numerous residents voiced concerns about the level of fear in the immigrant communities and also about the state of facilities where immigrants are detained by ICE. A statement made by Jeanine Parent, a Bakersfield resident and coordinator at Kern Welcoming and Extending Solidarity to Immigrants (KWESI), revealed that detainees in the Mesa Verde Detention Center in Bakersfield are currently facing medical neglect and participating in a labor strike due to only receiving $1 per day wages.

Despite 9 a.m. not being an accommodating time for the entire community, numerous residents rallied together to voice their desire to protect each other.

“Kern County benefits from and depends on tax revenue from our immigrant community. The federal government wants to pretend that their situation is criminal when in fact we know that it’s administrative. The federal persecution of our immigrant community has devastating consequences for our families,” stated Eliana Honeycutt, a Kern County resident. “We must protect due process for everyone in our community if that’s what we truly believe. It’s wrong and wasteful to help the federal government deport our friends and neighbors.”

Honeycutt concluded by noting that what actually keeps Kern Communities safe is neighbors who know and look out for each other and local law enforcement that focuses on real community priorities.

Tuesday’s forum was live-streamed on the Official Kern County Youtube page.

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