California officials issued new guidance Wednesday making clear state and local police can — and should — share information about illegal immigrants with the federal Homeland Security Department, in what amounts to a major exception to the state’s new sanctuary laws.
Police and sheriff’s departments are still banned from asking about someone’s immigration status and cannot hold illegal immigrants at the request of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But in instances where they do have information on legal status they are required to share it, as required by federal law, the new guidance says.
“This provision does not prohibit inquiries into an individual’s immigration status to immigration authorities, or exchanging immigration status information with any other federal, state, or local government entity,” Kevin Gardner, the chief of the state Department of Justice’s law enforcement division, wrote in two new memos.
The new guidance also seems to give Orange County the go-ahead for its new policy, where the sheriff is now posting the release dates of all of its jail inmates online. Since the information is publicly available, Orange County can also flag it for ICE, analysts said.
And the guidance says state and local cops can respond to calls for assistance from federal immigration officials, as long as there’s some state law that’s also being policed at the time.
That new caveat could help smooth out some early problems that have arisen with local police refusing to respond to drunken drivers or highway chases the Border Patrol has called in.
“In these limited circumstances, a California law enforcement officer may assist any law enforcement official, even if those officials are engaged in immigration enforcement, but only when the California law enforcement officer is enforcing state law,” Mr. Gardner wrote — though he warned that shouldn’t be used as a loophole to enforce broader immigration laws.
Beyond those exceptions, the guidance does rule out much of the cooperation that used to exist between federal immigration authorities and state and local cops.
California deputies and officers cannot participate in joint task forces that involve immigration enforcement — which could end some anti-gang efforts — nor can they take part in the 287(g) program that would deputize them to help identify and oust illegal immigrants.
State Sen. Kevin de Leon, who was a driving force behind the sanctuary law, known as SB54, said the new guidance should deflate some of the arguments against the policy.
“The guidelines offer further evidence that SB 54 is consistent with federal law,” he said. “I trust California will see the Republican effort to conflate immigrants with dangerous criminals for what it is: another racist trope meant to divide us with hate.”
The Trump administration filed a lawsuit earlier this month challenging SB54 and two other new state laws that prohibit businesses from cooperating with immigration authorities, and give state officials oversight over ICE detention facilities in the state.
The new guidance seems to be an attempt to answer some of the specific problems the Trump administration cited in the lawsuit where cooperation has broken down.