TULARE, Calif. (KFSN) -- Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux says his department received a detainer request from ICE on Gustavo Garcia about an hour before they released him from the Tulare County Pre-Trial Facility last Friday.
But they couldn't honor ICE's request, because under Senate Bill 54, commonly referred to as California's sanctuary state law, state law enforcement agencies cannot detain an individual on the basis of a hold request.
The law does allow law enforcement to cooperate with immigration authorities under certain circumstances, including past serious or violent felonies, but the sheriff says the language of the law is contradictory when it comes to Garcia's armed robbery conviction more than 15 years ago.
Regardless, he says his employees weren't legally allowed to look up Garcia's criminal record, because they didn't have a reason to - he was being held on a misdemeanor charge.
It wasn't until after Garcia's crime spree and death that the sheriff says his office started to learn of his lengthy rap sheet.
"What would be nice is if...ICE is able to give us their qualifying reasons as to why that detainer is there, and minimally if we receive that detainer, we should be able to telephone ICE and say can you please give us the qualifying reasons for this detainer."
Assemblymember Jim Patterson believes Sheriff Boudreaux should have been able to communicate with ICE to make a public safety decision on whether to hold or release Garcia, but says he did not have that ability under SB54 as it stands.
"What we think we're discovering is that the law presently unnecessarily puts a wall between the sheriff and ICE to determine not whether we're going to turn them over to ICE or if we're going to do something with them but to determine, are they a danger to society?" Patterson said. "Do they have a criminal record that would indicate that it would be dangerous to let them go and should we detain them and inform ICE?"
Patterson will continue to research the issue, but he proposes Democrats in Sacramento take a closer look too.
He says without their support, no change will come.
On Wednesday, ICE said Garcia's rampage could have been avoided if they had been notified of his release.
This evening, ICE out of California also released a statement, which says ICE should not politicize the tragedy in Tulare County.
"As we wait for further details about the causes of this tragic spree, it is clear that we must come together to work toward solutions that address issues like gun violence. The California Values Act, in fact, is part of the solution, helping victims and witnesses work with law enforcement and also preventing abuses. It is short-sighted for the Sheriff to attack it."
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