Immigrant rights activists introduced a resolution to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors Tuesday morning, demanding that the county uphold due process for immigrants and undocumented residents who are arrested and sent to county jail.
The resolution, which is largely symbolic, puts pressure on Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern to stop cooperating with Immigrant Customs Enforcement (ICE) through a national program called the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), which has played a large role in mass deportations.
Under the present system, PEP allows local law enforcement to notify ICE when and where people who match immigration databases are released from jail so that they can be picked up and sent to deportation proceedings before their guilt has been proven in court.
According to immigrant rights groups, this is a violation of a person’s right to due process.
“Somebody could be arrested for something minor or major and because they have a misdemeanor from several years ago will get turned over to ICE through PEP notification,” said Laura Polstein, an immigration staff attorney at Centro Legal de la Raza.
Alameda County United in Defense of Immigrant Rights (ACUDIR), a coalition of immigrant rights organizations, worked alongside Supervisor Richard Valle to get the resolution pushed through the Public Protection Committee to the full board.
Groups that make up ACUDIR include Causa Justa: Just Cause, Centro Legal de la Raza, Black Alliance for Just Immigration and East Bay Alliance for Sustainable Economy (EBASE).
San Francisco legally distanced itself from PEP earlier this year after its Board of Supervisors passed the Upholding Due Process law prohibiting the city from providing information to ICE about its detainees.
Now, immigrant rights groups are pushing for Alameda County to follow suit so that communities can feel safer and people’s rights can be upheld.
“I believe the resolution is a great step in reminding our community that it is a critical moment to stand together for the rights of all of our community members,” said Supervisor Valle in a statement to the Post.
“The work we doing are is a reminder to the people in Alameda County that immigrants, irrespective of status, deserve a right to be treated with dignity and respect,” he said.
Community advocates have also criticized PEP for straining the relationship between immigrant communities and local law enforcement since it is seen as the primary gateway to deportation proceedings.
Because of the structure of the county, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors’ resolution is not a law that would be binding but would express what many feel are the county’s values around this issue.
According to Polstein of Centro Legal, it will ultimately be up to Sheriff Ahern to cut ties with ICE.
“We think he will do the right thing eventually,” said Polstein. “He’s an elected official and his actions need to reflect the desires of the community.”