The federal immigration chief took aim at the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office on Fox News Tuesday evening, while slamming California’s new “sanctuary state” law.
“In Sonoma County a few weeks ago an illegal alien was arrested (and) we put a detainer on him,” said Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Thomas Homan.
“Sonoma County didn’t honor the detainer. What happened? Two weeks later he killed that girl, now she has two young daughters without a mother,” he said referring to a Santa Rosa slaying that occurred in August, not “a few weeks ago.”
The Sheriff’s Office has contended that cooperating with detainer requests and holding people on immigration grounds beyond their scheduled point of release is unconstitutional, citing a 2014 U.S. District Court case in Oregon.
“If ICE wants an immigrant detained after their incarceration period is over, they can get a warrant signed by a judge like any other law enforcement agency,” said sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Spencer Crum in a prepared response to the ICE chief’s recent comments.
This back-and-forth marks the second time in three months the federal immigration agency and Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office have publicly sparred.
During the devastating October wildfires Sheriff Rob Giordano called a comment by the acting ICE director “misleading and inflammatory.” Homan had claimed the Sheriff’s Office “left their community vulnerable to dangerous individuals” due to its handling of an undocumented arson suspect arrested before the fires broke out.
The homicide referenced by the ICE chief Tuesday involved an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala named Nery Israel Estrada-Margos, 38, who allegedly killed his girlfriend Veronica Cabrera Ramirez during a domestic dispute Aug. 18.
Estrada-Margos had been flagged by ICE after he was booked into the Sonoma County Jail for domestic battery earlier in August. A federal official said the Sheriff’s Office, which runs the county jail, only gave ICE a 16-minute notice before Estrada-Margos was released. The sheriff, Rob Giordano, claimed ICE had been given a 45-minute notice.
The discrepancy is now moot. Under immigration policy changes Giordano instituted in mid-August and further strengthened by California’s “sanctuary state” law, officials at the Sonoma County Jail will not give ICE information on people like Estrada-Margos who had never before been convicted of a crime before their arrest.
The sheriff’s established policy and the “sanctuary state” law allows jail officials to cooperate with ICE if a person has been previously convicted of a serious or violent crime.
In the Fox News interview, Homan said his agents would be ramping up their effort in California in response to the recent law.
“California better hold on tight,” Homan said. “We’re going to be all over the place.”
You can reach Staff Writer Nick Rahaim at 707-521-5203 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @nrahaim.