U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) lodged an immigration detainer with the San Diego Sheriff's Office (SDSO) for an illegal alien charged with domestic violence and false imprisonment. Due to the so-called "California Values Act," a sanctuary policy, the detainer was ignored and the alien was released from state custody in Dec. 2019. Using a different tactic, ICE served an immigration subpoena to SDSO for the criminal records of the suspect, 31-year-old Hector Manuel Bautista-Cardenas, a Mexican national illegally present in the United States. The new tactic worked.
SDSO complied with the subpoena and provided all records requested by ICE. Mr. Bautista has previously been removed from the country at least two times before, once in Jul. 2018 and again in Jan. 2010. With the information provided by SDSO, ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations officers were able to arrest Mr. Bautista without incident in El Cajon, California, on Mar. 3.
When law enforcement agencies don’t honor ICE detainers, these individuals, who often have significant criminal histories, are released onto the street, presenting a potential public safety threat. Any local jurisdiction thinking that refusing to cooperate with ICE will result in a decrease in local immigration enforcement is mistaken. Local jurisdictions that choose to not cooperate with ICE are likely to see an increase in ICE enforcement activity, as ICE has no choice but to conduct more at-large arrest operations. A consequence of ICE being forced to make more arrests on the streets is the agency is likely to encounter other unlawfully present foreign nationals that wouldn’t have been encountered had we been allowed to take custody of a criminal target within the confines of a local jail.
In February, ICE announced that it had issued four immigration subpoenas to the SDSO in an effort to compel information blocked by California's sanctuary law. In a statement, ICE acknowledged the agency has not historically issued subpoenas in order to obtain basic information about criminal aliens. But with sanctuary policies in places like California, local law enforcement agencies are prohibited from cooperating with federal immigration authorities, and the lack of cooperation threatens public safety.
Should the local agencies ignore the subpoenas, the U.S. Attorney's Office can work with an immigration officer to obtain an order from the U.S. District Court to require the production of evidence under subpoena.