Nothing But the TRUTH

“We look at the ICE paperwork and say ‘OK, they qualify,’ then hand them over,” Sheriff Steve Bernal says of the process.

Editor's note: The original version of this story contained an incorrect date. Sheriff Steve Bernal will make his presentation on Dec. 11.

ICE may no longer have a desk at the Monterey County jail, but that doesn’t mean they no longer have a place in the Monterey County justice system.

Exactly what that place looks like will be revealed to the Monterey County Board of Supervisors by Sheriff Steve Bernal, in his first report required under the state’s TRUTH Act.

Passed in 2016 and counting Supervisor Luis Alejo – then a state assemblymember – as a co-author, TRUTH (Transparent Review of Unjust Transfers and Holds) ensures community members have the right to know if ICE has asked the jail to turn them over for deportation. It also gives them the right to refuse to cooperate with any investigation, and the right to have an attorney present during any questioning at the jail.

“There have been some areas where there’s been cooperation with ICE, but it’s dropped now to only the most egregious types of crimes,” Alejo says. The TRUTH Act went into effect on Jan. 1, 2017. In 2016, the jail turned over 215 people to ICE. Post-TRUTH implementation, that number dropped to 32 in 2017.

Bernal says the differences in the county’s relationship with ICE aren’t readily apparent, beyond the lack of a federal presence at the jail. If a prisoner falls under the criteria where ICE can begin deportation proceedings, the feds have to do the work to make it happen.

“There’s a lot of legwork to determine if an inmate falls under the criteria, and we leave that to them, because we don’t have the manpower,” Bernal says.

Bernal will make his presentation at a rare evening Board of Supervisors meeting, starting at 5pm Dec. 11.

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