Orange County will halt its practice of holding inmates who have been marked for possible deportation beyond the length of their jail terms, falling in line with Los Angeles and other counties.
The county made the decision earlier this month in response to a federal court ruling that said a woman's constitutional rights were violated after authorities kept her beyond her release date so she could be transferred to immigration agents for possible deportation. The court also held the Oregon county liable for damages in the case.
Since the April ruling, several jurisdictions across the country have stopped honoring detainer requests issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. And on Wednesday, Attorney General Kamala Harris issued a bulletin to law enforcement advising that immigration detainers are voluntary and warning that if courts with jurisdiction over California follow the Oregon decision, local law enforcement may be held liable for honoring the requests.
"When local law enforcement officials are seen as de facto immigration enforcers, it erodes the trust between our peace officers and the communities they serve," Harris said in a statement.
Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside and several other counties have already stopped honoring the detainers, citing the ruling.
Orange County officials initially said they would continue honoring the requests, which ask local law enforcement to hold potentially deportable immigrants for 48 hours beyond their release dates.
In early June, the department announced it would only honor requests involving certain inmates, but officials further researched the ruling and eventually determined they would no longer hold people for immigration authorities beyond their release dates, said Jeff Hallock, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Department.
Sheriff's officials will still notify immigration authorities about potential deportees and immigration agents can still take custody of an inmate if they arrive as the person is being discharged, Hallock said.
At least one other county sheriff has decided not to change policy because of the ruling.
Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said he will continue to honor immigration requests as long as they are not in violation of California's TRUST Act, under which detainees must be charged with or convicted of a serious offense to be subject to a 48-hour hold.
"The law in Oregon does not have an impact on the law in California," Youngblood said. "We're just following the law the best we can."
LAPD Assistant Chief Michael Moore said the department is still in the process of analyzing the federal court decision with the city attorney but he expects a decision to be made soon.
In an email statement, federal immigration spokeswoman Lori Haley said the agency "anticipates that law enforcement agencies will comply with detainers."
"When law enforcement agencies remand criminals to ICE custody rather than releasing them into the community, it helps contribute to public safety and the safety of law enforcement," she said.
Steve Zamarripa, a spokesman for a coalition of immigrant rights groups in Orange County, said the sheriff's decision "sounded nice on paper," but falls short because it still allows immigration authorities to pick up potentially deportable inmates.
"All those contacts that they have with ICE … it's breaking up a lot of families," he said. "Those people, instead of being given the time to learn from their mistakes or better themselves, are being turned over to ICE.
"They're being broken up from their families and they're being deported to a country that they no longer have a bond to."