What are we missing here? We are referring to the seemingly straightforward issue of what to do about those convicted of serious crimes who are also living here without proper documentation.

These are non-citizens who have broken federal law to be in the country in the first place and then commit a grievous offense as well. It’s a blatant double-betrayal. In fact, some may have more than one serious crime on their records.

The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office had been cooperating with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities by handing over such criminals to ICE (at its request) for possible (but not routine) deportation. The vetted process is a legal one and is fairly widespread outside the Bay Area in California and in other parts of the country.

In the latest year-to-year reporting period, 15 people were turned over to ICE. All of them were deemed clear and obvious threats to the community.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, their crimes included: Lewd acts with a child; assault with a deadly weapon; domestic violence; arson of an inhabited building. We aren’t talking about jaywalking, littering or loitering.

As of last week, however, the sheriff, Carlos Bolanos, bowed to concerted pressure and announced his office will no longer cooperate with ICE officers. His Board of Supervisors was in unanimous agreement.

How can there be much debate at all about removing such convicted criminals involved in egregious activities from the community, if not the country itself? It’s not a Democrat or Republican question.

Some activists, attorneys and others are opposed to this policy. They claim that it is unfair, counterproductive and somehow discriminatory.

They argue, among other things, that these criminals have served their time behind bars (for the most part) and deserve to be set free (a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office noted in an email that it does not track whether an inmate has completed his or her jail time).

What’s more, they offer, some other Bay Area counties don’t cooperate with ICE. Still, some do. So do counties in other parts of the state.

Have the protesters talked to people, the general public, the taxpayers, actual citizens, who would have to live among the released offenders in question if they are permitted to come back to their prior haunts (or elsewhere locally), particularly since they aren’t here legally in the first place?

And what about the victims of the crimes committed by the individuals in question? Is there any consideration for them? Apparently not.

Some local officials have fretted that continuing the practice in question will generate increased distrust of law enforcement in local immigrant circles. Proof of such speculation is anecdotal at best.

Bolanos, who had previously maintained firmly that the county’s safety is paramount in this discussion, now agrees with that view, along with the supervisors.

In a statement right out of a George Orwell novel, Bolanos issued this official statement: “At the end of the day, my primary focus and priority is the safety of the public.” He actually said that. Then he proclaimed: “I think our community becomes unsafe when people are unwilling to report crimes, whether they be victims or witnesses, due to the mistrust of law enforcement.”

Bolanos and his enablers (the supervisors, activists, etc.) want it both ways.

But isn’t it a dereliction of duty, perhaps even discriminatory, to release these dangerous felons back into immigrant neighborhoods (or any neighborhoods) and, as a result, fail to provide the law-abiding majority, including children, with reasonable and fully expected protection?

Isn’t maintaining the safety and security of the county and its residents, both legal and not, the primary task of the Sheriff’s Office, the Board of Supervisors, the district attorney and other key officials?

Addendum: Maybe there’s a ray of hope in all of this. Maybe.

Although our county is making the federal immigration enforcement authorities’ necessary tasks more difficult, they have the ability to seek a court order to force the county to hand over a convicted criminal to them for processing and potential deportation.

Such a warrant takes time and requires a judge’s signature, however.

In the end, let us fervently hope that the sheriff’s new “evolved” posture in this matter does not result in an avoidable tragedy.

Contact John Horgan at johnhorganmedia@gmail.com.

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(4) comments

Ray Fowler

Hello, John

You raise some excellent points in your column. Allowing persons with criminal histories to reenter the community so they may re-offend makes no sense. The "activists" are selfish and appear to have little regard for the safety of others. The activists want the county to stop transferring undocumented offenders to the agency charged with processing those same offenders. The activists apparently believe being the loudest voice in the room lends substance and persuasiveness to their point of view... it doesn't... it just makes them the loudest voice in the room.

If we say everyone's voice should be heard... have we listened to the persons victimized by offenders being released back into the community? Have the activists or the county listened to the community? I'm guessing there are more folks who would like to see offenders who entered the community without permission remanded to the agency responsible for processing those offenders.

What would happen to a San Mateo County resident who entered a foreign country without permission then committed a crime? Would they be allowed to avoid being transferred to the legal authority designated to decide whether they should face prosecution or deportation? It's very likely they would be cooling their heels in custody in a facility that would not be allowed to operate in the US, and there would be no protesters clamoring for their release.

The Sheriff's decision to halt transfers to ICE does not make our community safer.

Terence Y

Mr. Horgan – thanks for another poignant column. One has to wonder whether these folks looking to release these criminals would take the opportunity to provide these criminals with free room and board. Or at least a hot meal and lodging while these felons “adjust” and get back their feet. I know the answer, but I’d like the voting public to think about it when more violent crime hits their neighborhood, which statistically, it will, or maybe it already has. Maybe patriotic citizens can find a way to notify ICE when felons are released?

willallen

Took guts to say the obvious. Hope he does a column on feedback.

tarzantom

Good question. Good analysis. Bad call by Bolanos. ICE has a limited budget and they go after the worst of the worst - the type that none of us want in our community.

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