Monterey County Jail (copy)

A view of the Monterey County Jail in Salinas, May 27, 2021.

It's now been four years since federal immigration officials had a desk to call their own in Monterey County Jail. With less coordination between U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and the Monterey County Sheriff's Office, which manages the jail, the number of inmates arrested by immigration officers upon release from the jail has plummeted, from 213 in 2017 to just two in 2021, as of Nov. 18. 

That is according to an annual report filed by the sheriff's office with the Monterey County Board of Supervisors per Assembly Bill 2792, the Truth Act. The law, which took effect in 2017, requires local law enforcement agencies to provide reports on ICE access to inmates, and to provide inmates themselves with copies of information the agency shares with ICE. 

As part of the Truth Act, Chief Deputy Jim Bass prepared the report, which will be presented Tuesday, Dec. 6 to the Board of Supervisors. 

The significant turning point for a "drastic decline in the number of inmates ICE was able to pick up upon their release from jail," as Bass wrote, was due to another law that took effect on Jan. 1, 2017: SB 54, California's sanctuary state law

Under SB 54, jail officials only respond to requests from ICE about inmates who have a qualifying charge/conviction, rather than any inmates. The two inmates released to ICE this year were charged with assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury and willful infliction of corporal injury.

The other factor this year and last in reducing the number of Monterey County Jail inmates arrested by ICE is Covid-19—in 2020 23 inmates were arrested by ICE. Before Covid, 52 inmates were released to ICE in 2019 and 41 in 2018, when the sanctuary state law took effect. 

Sara Rubin loves long public meetings, red pens and reading (on newsprint). She has been editor of the Monterey County Weekly since 2016, and has been on staff since 2010.

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