County now in compliance with Department of Homeland Security, DA says

After meeting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of the Department of Homeland Security, Madera County District Attorney David A. Linn wrote a lengthy letter instructing the Madera County Board of Supervisors to cooperate with ICE in regards to reporting the release of illegal immigrants from the county jail - to prevent the county from losing $46 million in federal funding.

This comes as cities, counties and universities across the country have reacted differently to President Trump’s Jan. 25 executive order to step up deportations.

Although the executive order withholds funding from cities and counties that ‘willfully violate federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States,’ some jurisdictions are refusing to cooperate with ICE and have declared themselves sanctuaries for immigrants.

Santa Clara County has filed a lawsuit to stop Trump from defunding nearly $1.7 billion in critical county services such as basic food programs for children and seniors, calling Trump’s order ‘patently unconstitutional.’

Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan said jurisdictions not working with ICE is a public safety issue. He said when law enforcement agencies fail to honor the executive order releasing serious criminal offenders, it undermines ICE’s ability to protect the public safety.

Linn was determined to get the county up to speed with ICE to avoid federal defunding.

On Feb. 24, Linn’s office conducted an “ICE Summit” with an ICE deputy field office director, and an assistant field office director from the San Francisco office of the Department of Homeland Security.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss county issues with ICE, concerning the cooperation on processing illegal immigrants who have committed serious felonies and are currently inmates in Madera County Jail.

According to Linn, the meeting addressed community concerns involving “ICE Sweeps” affecting county residential areas, schools and agricultural operations.

“I believed that a meeting with ICE was necessary due to the fact that they have contacted my office complaining that the Madera County Jail ‘refused to cooperate with them as required by law’ and was releasing dangerous felons into the local communities,” Linn said. “To facilitate this meeting, I had discussions with ICE agents, local police chiefs, Madera County Sheriff Jay Varney, Chief Manuel Perez, director of the Madera County Department of Corrections, and the Madera County Counsel.”

On March 1, Linn wrote a lengthy letter to the Madera County Board of Supervisors and Chief Administrative Officer Eric Fleming. Attached to his letter was a list of dangerous felons who had been released from the Madera County Jail, after ICE requested that they be made available for pickup. The board oversees the operation of the jail.

“Many of the felons had previously served time for serious felonies, including firearm charges, narcotics, possession for sale of narcotic substances, robbery, sexual battery, sex with minors, assault with a deadly weapon, corporal injury, battery, criminal threats, public fighting and other egregious offenses,” Linn wrote. “I was sworn into office to uphold the laws of the State of California and the United States of America. I believe that members of the Board of Supervisors also took that oath. Sheriff Varney and I both desire to live up to our sworn oaths.”

At a March 7 meeting with the board, Linn and Varney presented an additional 85 names of individuals who they believe were released from Madera County Jail without proper coordination between the jail and the Department of Homeland Security. At that meeting, Linn pointed out to the supervisors if Madera County fails to cooperate with Homeland Security, and becomes a sanctuary county, at least $46 million in federal funds could be lost.

Following the presentation, supervisors unanimously instructed Perez to fully comply with all ICE requests, and also directed the county counsel’s office to expedite their action to ensure the county is in full compliance with the federal government.

According to Linn, as of March 23, all documentation, agreements and operating procedures had been signed, and the ICE assistant field office director informed Linn that Madera County was in full compliance.

Linn stated he believed this cooperation with Homeland Security ensures that violent criminals who have been sentenced and released by Madera County Jail will be returned to their country of origin. That will prevent further ICE activities for such things as neighborhood sweeps.

Linn told the Sierra Star that as the elected district attorney of Madera County, he never expected to be involved in a federal matter involving the Department of Homeland Security.

“As a longtime citizen and taxpayer of Madera County, I will not allow the Department of Corrections to disregard federal law, I will not allow the Madera County Counsel’s office to misinterpret basic law, and I will not allow the Board of Supervisors to lose in excess of $46 million of badly needed federal funding for my friends and neighbors in our county.”

On March 30, a 35-year-old male illegal immigrant, of Madera, appeared at 8:30 a.m. in Madera County Superior Court and pleaded guilty to domestic violence. The man was detained by the Department of Corrections and at 2 p.m. he was turned over to ICE officials, who will deport him to his country of origin.

“This is the way the procedure should work,” Linn told the Star. “Not only does it prevent the release of dangerous individuals into our community, it also relieves the taxpayers of the cost of housing such individuals in the county jail.”