ICE to Sanctuaries: Just Say No to Holds

By Jessica M. Vaughan on November 22, 2010

In what appears to be yet another astounding display of mission apathy, a senior ICE official is now advising sanctuary jurisdictions on how they can opt out of his program. Earlier this month, the top manager of the Secure Communities program, David Venturella, suggested to the San Francisco Sheriff's Department that if the county did not wish to participate, it could simply ignore ICE's requests to take custody of the removable aliens that are discovered in county jails.

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According to a spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Department, and confirmed to me by ICE this morning, Venturella told the sheriff that San Francisco would have to enroll in Secure Communities, because the state's Attorney General and governor-elect Jerry Brown wants every county to participate, and has signed an agreement to that effect. (Why any agency would not want ICE to remove criminal aliens from their community is hard for all but the most diehard open-borders advocates to fathom.) But then, to the sheriff's surprise, Venturella gave them an escape hatch – he told them that while ICE "expects and hopes" that local law enforcement agencies will honor ICE's requests to take criminal aliens into custody (known as "holds"), they are under no legal obligation to do so.

So now, along with "Luck" as a counter-terrorism strategy, we have "Hope" as an immigration law enforcement policy. What Venturella said is true; local agencies don't have to honor ICE holds. The ACLU reminds the sheriffs of that all the time, and has even sued one sheriff in Florida over its willingness to help ICE by honoring the holds. But why encourage them not to? It is hard to imagine any other law enforcement agency inviting other law enforcement agencies to ignore its warrants or requests for cooperation. As one veteran immigration agent said to me in disbelief, "so I suppose we must now rely on the charity of the sheriffs and police to be able to do our job."

Venturella's comments will further stoke the confusion and controversy over a program that ought to be routine and self-explanatory, and which has been greeted very enthusiastically by most law enforcement agencies and the public. But Obama administration DHS appointees have struggled with Secure Communities – desperately seeking to appear tough on immigration law enforcement, they tout it as a smart way to hone in on criminal aliens, but seem to find it awkward to defend in the face of the predictable vehement opposition from their open-borders allies. And how ironic – their willingness to allow local agencies to opt out is creating precisely the "patchwork" of immigration enforcement that the administration claims it sued Arizona to avoid.