Modesto

Handing inmates to ICE went from controversial to snoozer. Stanislaus Co. Sheriff explains why.

Five years after California lawmakers required local law enforcement to report their cooperation with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Stanislaus County Sheriff Jeff Dirkse faced crickets on Tuesday.

Thanks to the TRUTH Act, enacted in 2016, each county sheriff’s office is required to report to the number of inmates the county has turned over to ICE officials.

When the practice first started a few years ago, many community members showed up at these meetings throughout the Central Valley. 

Kern County appeared to be ground zero for these reports as many community members spoke out about the county’s cooperation with ICE. 

At Tuesday’s meeting, Stanislaus County Supervisor Terry Withrow noted that the situation in Stanislaus County was similar to Kern County a few years ago with lengthy public comment on the matter. 

But not one person shared their thoughts on Stanislaus County’s involvement with ICE on Tuesday. 

A large reason for that, Withrow said, is the efforts of Dirkse to hold various community meetings on the subject in recent years to help have a back and forth discussion with anyone who was concerned about it to help clear up any confusion.  

Dirkse said the sheriff’s office is planning to hold three more meetings next year in South Modesto, Empire and Patterson. 

“I think it’s just kind of a testament of the job that you’re doing, how well you’re doing out there and the fact that people aren’t showing up here, they’re not confused,” Withrow told Dirkse. “They know what you’re doing from past presentations that you’ve done, and they know that we’re not just out there rounding people up and turning them over to ICE.” 

As part of his presentation to the board, Dirkse noted that ICE has access to the database for the county’s inmates and will reach out to the county if it wishes to take action with one of them, not the other way around. 

“We do not proactively reach out to ICE, because we have no knowledge of whether they do or do not want someone,” Dirkse said. “If they get the hit through the computerized system, they will contact us.” 

The inmates held for ICE are usually for one of the following reasons: a serious drug offense, assault, grand theft and possession of a weapon. 

Last year, out of over 16,000 bookings into the county jail, ICE requested that 224 of those inmates have a detainer placed on them. 

The county placed 90 detainers, because those were the ones that met certain legal criteria as outlined by the state, Dirkse said. 

Of the 90 detainers placed, ICE only picked up 15 inmates in Stanislaus County. 

The 90 inmates who had detainers placed on them were from the following countries: 

  • Cambodia (1) 
  • El Salvador (6) 
  • Guatemala (1) 
  • Honduras (3) 
  • India (4) 
  • Iraq (5) 
  • Mexico (67) 
  • Saudi Arabia (1) 
  • Vietnam (1) 

One inmate’s country of origin was unknown.

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.