California’s Sanctuary Laws Bring More Death, Mayhem

Press Releases

January 26, 2021

IRLI investigation reveals almost 2,000 detainer requests ignored in one county

WASHINGTON—An investigation by the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) has discovered that the county in California where an illegal alien recently went on a deadly stabbing spree has been ignoring hundreds of detainer requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), resulting in preventable deaths and lawlessness.

IRLI submitted a records request with the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office to discover just how many ICE detainers it has received in recent time and how many of them applied to aliens with serious criminal backgrounds. That request revealed that ICE lodged a total of 1,757 detainers in just two years – 909 requests in 2019 and 848 in 2020. The law enforcement records technician with the sheriff’s office confirmed with IRLI that every single one of these requests was ignored.

The Sheriff’s Office refused to disclose to IRLI how many of the detainer requests applied to aliens who were convicted or charged with serious or violent felony offenses. When IRLI asked about the last year an ICE detainer request was honored by the county, a records technician there replied that they could not find records that showed the last time a detainer request was honored.

“These numbers are absolutely appalling,” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI. “Anti-borders politicians have utterly perverted the role of state and local law enforcement. Instead of protecting citizens from dangerous criminals, some law enforcement in California apparently now exist to shield violent alien criminals from the deportation called for by federal law. Californians are now paying the price for these sanctuary laws in the form of more deaths and criminal mayhem.”

While the California Values Act (SB 54) ensures that no local or state resources are used to assist federal immigration officers, the law at least allows cooperation with ICE in only the most extreme of circumstances. Santa Clara County’s law takes an even more radical position, stating that the county “does not, under any circumstances, honor civil detainer requests from ICE by holding inmates on ICE’s behalf for additional time after they would otherwise be released from County custody.” The policy goes on to note that the county officials will not provide assistance to ICE, which includes giving them notification of release dates of wanted illegal aliens.

In Santa Clara County last November, police arrested Fernando De Jesus Lopez-Garcia after he allegedly stabbed five people inside the Grace Baptist Church, killing two and leaving three others seriously injured.

One witness called 911 to say a “man was going crazy, stabbing people and there was blood everywhere.” He was arrested on two counts of murder, three counts of attempted murder, battery on a spouse, and violation of a protective order.

Lopez-Garcia is an illegal alien with an extensive criminal record who had successfully avoided ICE apprehension after each arrest because of local and state sanctuary laws barring cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

“Here we have catastrophic proof of the abject failure of California’s sanctuary policies,” said David Jennings, San Francisco ICE’s Enforcement Removal Operations field office director. “The only person this policy protected was a criminal; permitting him to reoffend over and over again … Regrettably, politics continues to prevail over public safety, the detainers were ignored, and De Jesus Lopez-Garcia was released to the street.”

The church stabbing has prompted San Jose Democratic mayor, Sam Liccardo, and the city’s police chief, Eddie Garcia, to call for changes to the Santa Clara County sanctuary policy. Liccardo has repeatedly asked that Santa Clara County leaders adopt a policy that follows the California Values Act, allowing for ICE detainers to be honored when dealing with the most serious of illegal alien criminals. Based on the county government’s history, however, a change seems unlikely.

After a criminal alien shielded from deportation seven times allegedly stabbed and killed a woman there three years ago, the county supervisors met and voted 5-0 to continue the policy of refusing detainer requests on aliens held in their jails. 

Santa Clara, the most populous county in Northern California, has been building a reputation over several years for its sanctuary policies. In 2019 it earned a spot in IRLI’s list of America’s Ten Worst Sanctuary Communities.

For additional information, contact: Brian Lonergan • 202-232-5590 • [email protected]

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