In a video posted to social media Monday, San Mateo County Sheriff Carlos Bolanos sought to calm local fears over the possibility of increased federal immigration enforcement action by reaffirming his office “does not investigate or enforce immigration laws.”
“There have been recent community concerns regarding possible increases in immigration enforcement activity within San Mateo County,” Sheriff Bolanos said. “I want to assure members of the community that the sheriff’s office does not investigate or enforce immigration laws. It is the policy of the sheriff’s office that we do not inquire about, investigate or report to immigration and customs enforcement an individual’s immigration status.”
The sheriff also said he wants to “ensure that members of the community feel confidant they can report suspected criminal activity and reach out to us for essential services without fear of being reported to immigration officials.”
In 2016, the county reported that over 250,000 of its residents are born outside the U.S., of which 108,000 are not U.S. citizens.
In May 2014, the Sheriff’s Office announced it would no longer hold undocumented persons in custody for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) unless the person poses a significant public safety concern. The policy came several months following enactment of the state’s sanctuary state bill, the California Trust Act.
Sheriff Bolanos’ community message this week comes in the wake of President Donald Trump’s threats of nationwide ICE raids and deportations in a reported attempt to force Democrats to agree to asylum law reforms.
The message also comes days before Lights for Liberty vigils are set to take place in cities across the nation this Friday, including in Redwood City, in protest of conditions facing incarcerated immigrant children seeking asylum on the U.S. southern border. The vigil will take place in front of the Redwood City Public Library from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
As of 2017, about 300 state and local governments had laws, rules, or policies preventing federal efforts to enforce immigration laws, according to the Center for Immigration Studies, which opposes sanctuary policies and keeps an updated map of jurisdictions that have some form of them here.
Sanctuary-type policies are nationally controversial, with proponents saying they make cities safer by encouraging good relationships between citizens and law enforcement, and opponents saying they encourage the harboring of criminals who commit crimes and endanger communities. Advocates point to research suggesting sanctuary counties are safer compared to nonsanctuary counties (such as this one by a professor of political science at UC San Diego). Meanwhile, opponents of sanctuary-type policies, including the Center for Immigration Studies, says they make communities less safe, citing figures on what it calls preventable crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.