Sheriff’s new policy helps shield some undocumented inmates from deportation.

“If we do this judiciously, we’re not increasing the level of danger to the community,” Sheriff Scott Miller says.

The Monterey County Sheriff’s Office is modifying its jail policy so some undocumented inmates will no longer be kept an additional two days for possible deportation.

For several years the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office has complied with requests by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold undocumented inmates for 48 hours so they can be picked up by the feds. The holds are part of the Secure Communities program, which aims to expel serious and violent non-citizen criminals – but critics say it targets a broader range of people.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris has opined the ICE requests are just that – requests, not orders – so some counties have decided not to honor ICE holds for some crimes. Monterey County’s new policy will allow undocumented people arrested for non-violent misdemeanors such as shoplifting or driving without a license to pay bail or be released until their court date, just like other inmates.

Previously, undocumented inmates were kept in custody until their cases were resolved, plus an additional 48 hours for the ICE hold.

The policy change, tentatively set to take effect Sept. 20, won’t increase crime and will help ease the burden of an overcrowded jail, County Sheriff Scott Miller says. It also addresses the reality of an economy driven by undocumented workers.

“We rely on them and their families to live and work here,” Miller says. “That colors my approach to modifying this policy. I don’t think, as it’s currently constituted, it’s the most appropriate approach.”

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