Annual TRUTH Act community forum addresses law enforcement’s collaboration with ICE

August 23, 2023 /

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors held the annual TRUTH Act Community Forum during their regularly scheduled 9 a.m. meeting where the sheriff’s office and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) presented. Following the presentations, the floor was opened to public comments from community members.

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.

During the sheriff’s office presentation, the agency elaborated on what they are and are not allowed to do under the TRUTH Act. Additionally, the agency provided data and statistics regarding ICE access to inmates in the custody of the Kern County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) in 2022.

According to the presentation by Commander Mark Warren and Chief Deputy David Stevens, the KCSO does not:

  • Hold inmates past the date of their release or delay their release
  • Ask about individuals’ immigration status or provide ICE access to KCSO databases
  • Enforce federal immigration law or deport individuals
  • Participate in immigration sweeps

The presentation also stated that the KCSO does:

  • Cooperate with ICE within the law to protect public safety
  • Make release notifications if there are qualifying charges, as allowed by Government Code 7282.5(a)
  • Notify inmates that ICE has requested notification of their release
  • Notify inmates of their rights regarding ICE interviews and release notifications

According to the presentation given by the sheriff’s office, Govt. Code 7282.5(a) 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

According to Deputy David Stevens during the presentation, “KCSO ended the use of ‘Ice holds’ in 2014 when the law took effect, regardless of charges, and does not hold inmates past their date of release.”

One testimony during the public comment portion of the meeting, however, showed that the KCSO has, in fact,  held previous inmates past their release time in order to stall for ICE. 

Nestor Chavez shared his story in front of the Board of Supervisors, revealing that in 2021 he was arrested outside of the Lerdo jail by ICE agents after his release was held up for an additional three hours by staff at Lerdo jail. Chavez said the staff was waiting for ICE agents to arrive to pick him up.

“I was arrested there and I was taken to Mesa Verde. I was there for 32 months fighting my case,” Chavez shared. “I only asked the judge for one chance, but they didn’t give it to me. It’s very difficult — you have no idea how people are treated inside of there. Since then I have dedicated my life to my family, to working in the fields. You should see how hard us immigrants work in the fields. I’m very proud of that and I’m continuing going forward and I hold my head up high.”

Other community members also made their statements during the public comment portion of the TRUTH Act community forum and shared their support for the immigrant community and their rights. Jeannie Parent, the coordinator of Kern Welcoming and Extending Solidarity to Immigrants  (KWESI), also stood in front of the board to make a comment. She has worked with immigrants since the opening of the Mesa Verde Detention Center eight years ago.

“We don’t need to be using our funds to support ICE and put money in the pockets of the billion-dollar corporation GEO. Their only purpose is to incarcerate immigrants,” Parent stated. “As a taxpayer, I don’t want my money going to supporting GEO. I’d rather have it go to Sheriff’s programs, probation programs, youth, or folk in the community that deserve help.”

During the ACLU presentation portion of the meeting, ACLU Staff Attorney Mayra Joachin shared that transfer requests are still happening between ICE and the KCSO and one took place in October of last year. 

Joaquin also shared that between May 2022 and December 2022, there were 264 detainer requests made — information that was absent from the KCSO presentation. 

Detainer requests are requests that include both a hold and notification request from ICE to the KCSO. A notification request is an ICE request asking to be notified of an individual’s release date and time, and a hold request is a request to main an individual in custody beyond their time for release to facilitate a transfer to immigration.