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Collusion in California’s Central Valley: The Case for Ending Sheriff Entanglement with ICE

February 17, 2022

Over the past decade, the California Legislature enacted a trio of critical laws intended to protect people from collusion between state and local law enforcement agencies and agencies engaged in immigration enforcement. Certain sheriffs and local law enforcement agencies, however, have circumvented these laws and undermined the protections envisioned for California immigrants — at times in consultation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). As a result of these unlawful practices, sheriffs facilitate the reincarceration of noncitizen community members, whom ICE then forces to sit in prison-like detention awaiting trial, often without counsel. Collaboration between sheriffs and ICE are particularly destructive to the communities of the Central Valley: an expansive rural region with a large immigrant population, high poverty levels, and a dearth of legal services providers.This report exposes the different tactics used by Central Valley sheriffs to divert their resources to immigration enforcement and funnel noncitizen community members into the hands of immigration enforcement authorities. This report also reveals new details about the mechanisms developed by Central Valley sheriffs and law enforcement agencies in close partnership with ICE to evade pro-immigrant state laws. Notably, the practice of funneling people in Central Valley communities to ICE custody has continued even during the COVID-19 pandemic, which threatens particularly dangerous results in the congregate settings of ICE detention centers, which have been plagued by outbreaks.A two-year bill that was introduced in 2021 (AB 937, VISION Act), if enacted, would strengthen prohibitions on entanglement between state and local law enforcement agencies and ICE. This report demonstrates the need for such a bill: to sever sheriff entanglement with immigration enforcement and better protect all California residents.