SALINAS, Calif. - Monterey County Sheriff Steve Bernal announced Monday that Immigration and Customs Enforcement will no longer have an office inside the Monterey County Jail.
This announcement comes months after Governor Jerry Brown signed a Sanctuary State bill to extend protections statewide for immigrants living in the United States illegally. Sheriff Bernal hopes when this new law goes into effect, law enforcement will be able to work with undocumented immigrants to build a stronger community.
"We have a large number of undocumented residents here in Monterey County and only a very small fraction of them are criminals," said Sheriff Steve Bernal. "We want the undocumented community to feel safe to come forward as victims or witnesses of crimes and not feel like they're going to be reported to ICE."
Salinas Mayor Joe Gunter said it was never the city's job to deport people.
“Our job was also to get this information from these individuals. If they witnessed a crime, if they need our services, if they need our help. Their kids need to get into a school, whatever it is, that's what we provide,” said Salinas Mayor Joe Gunter.
Before this decision, there was a concern undocumented people would hesitate to communicate with authorities and even visit the jail. That’s something immigration attorney Blanca Zarazua says should now improve.
“People were fearful if they visited a relative (at the jail), they would be detained too.”
Sheriff Bernal said if ICE has a warrant signed by the judge they will be given access to interview inmates inside the jail.