Opinion - Lawmen and Immigrants - Sheriff Jones, ICE Director Homan Face The Music

By Michael Monasky | March 29, 2017 |   

It was a bit of a coup for Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones to manage a community meeting with the acting director of Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), Thomas D. Homan, on Tuesday night, March 28, 2017. I did not attend, but it was obvious from a recording that the meeting was raucous and the poor acoustics of the county juvenile detention facility didn't help in understanding what the speakers were saying.

The evening was a lesson for the two leaders in the chaotic nature of democracy. According to the Elk Grove News, two people were ejected and cited for disturbing the meeting (an audio recording is available here); as difficult as it is to understand all that was said, it is quite apparent that many people were upset with the responses from these lawmen.

Sheriff Jones made repeated appeals to public safety; some in the crowd didn't believe him and vocally protested his statements. Acting ICE Director Homan's repeated dedication to “uphold the law” elicited angry remarks from the assembled community members.

Authoritarian doctrine notwithstanding, I've learned that public safety is ensured by elements not exclusively sourced from the police, national security agencies, or the military. Good planning, safe engineering, public health, and generally good governance policies all contribute to public health and safety, which use to be inseparable. As Mr. Homan noted, ICE only enforces the law; it does not write or interpret it. And yet the police do interpret and compose their own policies based upon established law. Just last December, Sheriff Jones liberalized conceal carry permit policies; his gun policies have resulted in a 2,285% increase in issued gun permits since 2010. Over 8,000 concealed gun permits are held today in Sacramento County.  But there is no proof we are more safe carrying more guns. l

What was clear from the recording of the meeting was that these two lawmen were on the defensive, and that many in the crowd expressed anger and frustration with both local and federal law enforcement agencies. They wanted reassurances; yet this police leadership seemed to stoke the fires of resentment by taking a clinical view of criminal behavior, without assuaging public fears of immigrant sweeps already underway throughout the nation. Workplaces, schools, churches, and immigrant communities are now suffering police actions against those foreign-born, or those who appear to be so. The irony is that the Trump White House has a long way to go to match the massive deportation record of the Obama administration. 

The message from these lawmen is this: don't run afoul of the law. As a result, there's been a sudden drop off of immigrant applicants for public assistance; they don't want to be tracked by the government on a public database, which might subject them to arrest and deportation. 

The bottom line for immigrant advocates and activists is this: they want sanctuary status to be recognized and honored by ICE and the County Sheriff. The old bromide that “we're a nation of immigrants” no longer allays fears. What is missing is a clear, uniform, and liberal immigration policy for the state and the nation. Without it no one knows what to expect from their local police and immigration authorities. Thus far, Trump's executive orders on immigration have been ruledillegal, creating uncertainty and a state of public tension that demands resolution. 

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