The Sides of Measure K: Humboldt County's Sanctuary Initiative

Sep 10, 2018

A sign in support of Measure K, which if passed will invoke a Humboldt County Sanctuary Initiative for undocumented immigrants living within the region.
Credit Centro del Pueblo Facebook

Measure K, also known as the Humboldt County Sanctuary Initiative, made its way to this year's November ballot. The measure is built upon a collection of 2,000 signatures, local support from grassroots organizations and a group of people determined to see this proposal become law.

Since 2016, groups like Centro Del Pueblo and steering member Renee Saucedo,  advocated for a county-wide sanctuary measure. Now with less than two months until election day, Measure K continues to face more uphill battles. Local attorny and advocate for Measure K, Eric V. Kirk says there are misconceptions about what sanctuary means for residents and about the resources it will need. He says the Sheriff's Office reported estimates that don't accuartely represent resources needed for Measure K.

"And the biggest figure by far is the one put forth by the Sheriff's Department of $80,000 to $130,000 per year, which we feel is just outlandish," Kirk says. "There's no way that Measure K would lead to that much work for what he refered to as 'tracking and reporting'." 

Kirk clarrifies the only thing required by the sheriff's office to track and report is their own communication back and forth, and to and from ICE agents.  

The Humboldt County Board of Supervisor's latest report on Measure K notes an estimated cost of the initiative to be between $171,500 and $312,650. The estimated costs include staff time, additional staff or actual monetary resources and are associated with provisions of the initiative. 

Estimates of how Measure K would impact county resources.
Credit Humboldt County Board of Supervisors

Kirk believes the estimates are based on the worst case scenerios and that other county governments are able to do the same type of reporting with much lower costs. 

"The Probation Department has the same requirement. Their estimate for the time to write those two reports: track and report, are $1250 to $2500. Somehow the sheriff for the same report, which hopefully most of the reports would be nothing to report, should take $80,000 to $130,000. There's just nothing to justify that figure," Kirk says. 

Measure K requires semi-annual reporting by both the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office and Probation as well as documentation of when federal immigration enforcement officials (ICE) request information or assistance. The board's summary says if the measure is approved, written reports will need to be submitted to supervisors which detail civil immigration detainers and all communication between local law enforcement and ICE. 

Law enforcment officials like Humbodlt County Sheriff William Honsal says he supports the immigrant community, but doesn't see the urgent need for a county-wide sanctuary law because the department already follows a state-wide sanctuay law under SB-54. 

"This measure is just not necessary. Anyone who looks at our policy and procedure and sees how extensive it is can see how we're following the letter of the law. We are not about disrupting the community, immigrant community, and we're just here enforcing state law," Honsal says and further notes that his department is already struggling to patrol the entire county. "Staff time is already precious. We don't have enough deputies out in this 4,000 square mile county that we have. And so anytime we're taking the deputies off the street and training them here at main station for this, takes them out of their jurisdiction." 

Under the Sheriff's Office policy for Immigration Violations, it states that members of Humboldt County Sheriff's Office may not use Department moneys or personnel to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect or arrest persons for immigration enforcement purposes. The department cannot use or collaborate with ICE to inquire into a person's immigration status, detain a person based on an ICE hold request, or provide personal information like a person's home address or work location unless certain circumstances are met. Information about the department's laws on immigration is highlighted in Policy 428

A sanctuary law would not prevent local law enforcement from arresitng criminals that commit "serious or violent felonies" which is also outlined in Policy 428. Undocumented immigrants who commit murder, rape, arson, kidnapping, child or drug trafficking, sexual abuse, grand theft involving a firearm are included as Immigration Violations. Honsal also says even if they don't report all crimes to ICE agents, that those officers, as well as anyone else, have access to public records which can be used to detain criminals. 

"Despite the fact that there's a sanctuary bill or sanctuary county, ICE will still be here. They can still come. There's no restrictions on them coming. They can restrict my information sharing with ICE, but arrest data is public information. ICE doesn't have to disclose to any arresting agency who they are," Honsal says.

This means county databases and even local publications like the Lost Coast Outpost, who regularly publish crime reports, are subject to viewing by ICE agents.

According to Honsal, it's safer for local law enforcement to deal with Customs and Immigration because it gives local law enforcement a chance to stop ICE agents from going after minor infractions and focuses their efforts on serious or violent criminals.

"If they don't get them at the jail, then they're going to go back to where these people are living. Then ICE will be here, in our community, going door to door and looking for this individual," Honsal says. "And ICE suddenly doesn't become discretionary. Everyone that's undocumented gets detained and possibly goes through deportation hearings."

While the state sanctuary law, SB-54, and the California Trust Act may cover certain protections for immigrants, Kirk argues that its not enough. He says making a Humboldt sanctuary bill ensures that people will stay protected, even if California's state laws are overturned in the future.

"We want to have a measure which stands alone regardless of the fate of SB-54. If the legislature ever changes in political terms, we want to have something that is unique to Humboldt County," Kirk says. "The sheriff isn't interested in any extensive joint task force involvement with ICE and that's great. But what about the next sheriff or the sheriff after that? We want a policy that we know that this cooperation, beyond what is the legal minimum, is not going to happen."

There are several differences that Kirk notes about Measure K, compared to SB-54. Measure K does not have the same exemptions for past criminal convictions and they also take certain protocols if a warrant for a civil immigration violation is issued. Additionally, Measure K gives undocumented immigrants more rights in determining who will take care of their children if they are deported.