Lost Boys: Counties Now Less Likely to Refer Juveniles to Immigration Authorities

Yvette Cabrera
August 27, 2015


Advocates have said that referrals U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by probation departments violate state law, which county officials say is superseded by federal law.

Lucero Chavez, a staff attorney with Public Counsel, says that federal law doesn’t require local law enforcement to communicate with ICE. “The federal law says you cannot prohibit communication between a local law enforcement agency and immigration [authorities] or the federal government – that’s the law. But a lot of law enforcement agencies are interpreting the inverse – that you have to, in the affirmative – that you have to communicate any contact, any suspicion that you have with immigration specifically.”

Helen Beasley with Community Legal Services of East Palo Alto agreed and said it is a misinterpretation of the statute, given that the federal government cannot require state or local law enforcement to use their resources to enforce federal laws. “You can’t have an outright prohibition on communication regarding immigration status for government officials, but that in no way requires government officials to go out and affirmatively report these youth to ICE.”

Kristen Jackson, an attorney with Public Counsel, said she found confidential juvenile court documents inside immigration court files. She warned ICE that release of the documents violated state law; as a result, the government removed the documents from the immigration file. The documents stay on their immigration record for life. “So it may start with this, but it doesn’t end with this,” said Jackson.

Angie Junck, an attorney with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, says that probation departments are opening themselves to risk, such as a settlemtn in San Joaquin County, when they dive into questions about immigration, an area outside of their expertise, and make a mistake by referring the case to federal authorities. “For those who lack any such training, these determinations are all too often based on uninformed hunches or ethnic and racial stereotyping,” wrote Junck in an email. “This in turn risks inappropriate apprehension of youth with legal immigration status, and subjects the city to potential liability.”

 

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Organizations mentioned/involved: Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto (CLSEPA), Public Counsel
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