U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement bus parked outside of an immigration federal court in downtown San Diego. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

This week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced the completion of “Operation Rise” – during which agents made 128 arrests throughout California in a campaign against the state’s so-called “sanctuary” policies that restricted cooperation between local law enforcement and immigration officials.

Twenty-four of the arrests occurred in San Diego.

“Unfortunately, certain local politicians, including many in California continue to put politics over public safety,” said acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf in a press release. “Instead of fulfilling our shared mission to protect our communities, they would rather play politics with the law by enacting so-called Sanctuary City policies to the detriment of our country’s safety. Operation Rise is proof-positive that we will never back down from enforcing the rule of law, with or without the cooperation of local politicians.”

The California Values Act – or the so-called “sanctuary” law – has been a central immigration battle between California and the federal government for years. The law did several things in an attempt to erect a firewall between local law enforcement and federal immigration enforcement, including only permitting local law enforcement to notify ICE of the release date of an unauthorized immigrant in their custody if that person has committed one of about 800 crimes listed in the law, which include most felonies and some misdemeanors.

“Get over it bc we won’t raise a single finger to be a cog in your cruel deportation machine,” tweeted Kevin de León, the former state Senate president pro tem who wrote the law, in response to the comments from DHS and ICE leaders.

Of those arrested locally, most had prior criminal convictions or pending criminal charges, according to the department, which included child molestation, domestic violence, assault, various drug charges, theft and driving under the influence.

Half of the arrests were people who were released despite ICE putting detainers on them with local law enforcement, said Gregory Archambeault, the field office director for ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations in San Diego, at a press conference Thursday.

“This is a continuing effort to raise public awareness of the dangerous sanctuary state laws enacted by the state of California,” Archambeault said.

Archambeault also said the laws are frustrating for local law enforcement, who want to cooperate with ICE.

“The Sheriff’s Department has always been cooperative with ICE over the year,” Archambeault said. “They are very frustrated with sanctuary laws.”

Earlier this year, federal officials praised San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore for his cooperation on immigration efforts.

Judge Sides With California on Private Prisons Ban

A federal judge this week largely upheld California’s law banning private prisons and immigration detention facilities.

Assembly Bill 32, signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom last year and effective Jan. 1, prohibits the operation of private detention facilities within the state. The law also prohibits contracts between the federal government and private prisons to detain immigrants.

The GEO Group, a private prison company, sued California over the law.

U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino did leave one exception: that the U.S. Marshal Service could use private detention facilities in limited circumstances, such as where the number of Marshal Service detainees in a given district exceeds the available capacity of existing federal, state and local facilities.

This may be the case in the Southern District of California, which includes San Diego and Imperial counties. The district has long faced a shortage of detention space and at times, like under the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy, detainees have had to be housed in Santa Ana and Arizona, far from their families and legal counsel.

But those private facilities must comply with local and state laws in order to be eligible for Marshal Service contracts.

In San Diego, Marshal Service contracts with both the GEO Group and CoreCivic, another private prison company, to run the Western Regional Detention Facility and the Otay Mesa Detention Center, respectively. Immigration and Customs Enforcement also contracts with CoreCivic at the Otay facility.

Golden State News

Maya was Voice of San Diego’s Associate Editor of Civic Education. She reported on marginalized communities in San Diego and oversees Voice’s explanatory...

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