Four counties in Southern California plan to hold forums in the coming month to tell the public how jail officials in their communities worked with federal immigration agents.
Cooperation between law enforcement and federal immigration agencies is regulated in California, as part of the state’s controversial sanctuary laws, some of which took effect early this year. Annual public forums, with law enforcement discussing the ways – including legal interactions – that sheriff’s departments, police departments and others have worked with federal immigration authorities, also have been required by the TRUTH Act, a state law that took effect last year.
The sanctuary laws have proven controversial. Many cities in California have passed resolutions or taken legal steps against the statutes, saying they violate federal law, while other cities have expressed support.
All four Southern California counties faced public pressure from community and civil rights groups to hold the public forums. Orange and San Bernardino counties will hold their events on Dec. 4; Riverside County scheduled its event for Dec. 11, and Los Angeles County has one set for Dec. 18.
All of the forums are slated to be held during regularly scheduled Board of Supervisors meetings according to spokespersons for the counties and sheriff’s departments. That timing – all will take place on weekdays during morning work hours – is drawing criticism from immigrant-rights advocates who argue the forums should be held in the evening when more members of the public can attend.
“It’s clear that holding the forum at 9:30 a.m. on a weekday morning is … in no way was designed to ‘maximize public participation’,” said Sameer Ahmed, an attorney with the American Civil Rights Union of Southern California.
At each meeting, representatives from that county’s Sheriff’s Department is expected to make a presentation to the supervisors. The ACLU and other organizations asked if they, too, could make similar presentations on behalf of the community. Other counties, such as Fresno, have allowed such presentations, said the ACLU’s Ahmed. But, so far, only one Southern California county, San Bernardino, is considering letting organizations make presentations to the board.
Advocates with several immigrant-rights organizations in Southern California expressed some of the same complaints about how their counties went about scheduling the forums, and the lack of communication about them.
“As the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice we are disappointed in the County of San Bernardino and the Sheriff’s Department. We requested for the Truth Act Forum to be hosted in a time accessible to the community… (But) we got no response,” said spokesman Luis Suarez.
Luis Nolasco, an ACLU community engagement and policy advocate in the Inland Empire, said: “The spirit of the TRUTH Act was to increase transparency into how local law enforcement collaborated with ICE. The way that the counties have set up these forums goes against the intent of the TRUTH Act.”
Meanwhile, in Orange County, activist group Resilience Orange County and others plan to hold a rally in front of the Hall of Administration, where supervisors meet, the day of the forum.
“It’s been months that advocates have been pressing the sheriff’s and the board to hold this forum. And we’ve gone without a response,” said Hairo Cortes, executive director of Chispa, an Orange County non-profit organizing young Latinos.
“The county has not been interested in being transparent with the public about the extent of their cooperation with ICE. Now, they’re hosting this forum, which is required by law, at the end of the year, on a weekday, around 9 a.m., when public participation will be the lowest,” Cortes said Tuesday.
The schedule for the forums:
- Dec. 4, 9:30 a.m., Orange County Board of Supervisors, 333 W. Santa Ana Blvd., Santa Ana
- Dec. 4, 10 a.m., San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, 385 North Arrowhead Avenue, San Bernardino
- Dec. 11, 9:30 a.m., Riverside County Board of Supervisors, 4080 Lemon St, first floor, Riverside
- Dec. 18, 9:30 a.m., Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, 500 West Temple St., Room 381, Los Angeles
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