At a time when relations between immigrant-rights groups and law enforcement have been strained, the San Diego County Supervisors held a TRUTH Act forum on Tuesday to provide more transparency about the ways in which local law enforcement interacts with federal immigration agencies.
Among the requirements under the Transparent Review of Unjust Transfers and Holds Act, or TRUTH Act, a forum must be held annually if a local law enforcement agency provides access to a federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
During the forum, some community members pleaded with county officials to halt any sort of collaboration with immigration agencies.
"I'm calling to demand the sheriff's department and all other public departments put a stop to any collaborations with ICE," community member Silvia, who participated in Tuesday's forum, told NBC 7's sister station Telemundo 20.
"We've had many cases where we've registered and filed complaints and it's inconceivable that sheriffs are sharing information and are collaborating in the abuse against our community," said Pedro Rios, a member of the American Friends Service Committee.
The San Diego County Sheriff's Department said in a statement to NBC 7 that in an effort to be transparent, it's posted SB-54-related reports online.
"The Sheriff's Department will be putting together a working group with immigration a consortium group to address the concerns with the pending release report," the statement said. "[Sheriff Bill Gore] believes an accommodation can be made. In regards to limiting ICE access in our jails and the transferring of inmates, we are following the Truth Act. The Sheriff's Department does not enforce immigration laws. The department would like to eliminate these misunderstandings and begin the new year with a fresh start on these issues."
Immigrant-rights activists maintain that many undocumented immigrants fear coming forward to report a crime for fear of being deported, despite California's TRUTH Act, which was passed in 2016.
“I want the community to know that, if you call 911 and you need help, you will get someone that is there to protect and serve you -- not report you,” County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher told NBC 7.
Fletcher said a single incident can cast doubt and erode trust in local law enforcement.
“Last year, we dealt with an issue with a sheriff’s deputy who needed to get a translator and just happened to call Border Patrol to translate -- who happened to take that family into custody,” Fletcher said.
The county supervisor predicted they would have questions about the circumstances surrounding some of the arrests made during recent protests, as well as about procedures that make information public regarding who is in custody in local jails.
The San Diego Sheriff’s Department confirmed with NBC 7 that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are no longer allowed inside jail facilities to await an individual to be released, and they no longer allow ICE agents access to internal jail information. Also, the department has a policy that outlines when sheriff's staff may legally notify ICE of a pending release, such as when an inmate has qualifying charges, as outlined in State Bill 54.
In addition to posting details relating to ICE contacts on its public website, SDSO also holds regular meetings with immigrant-rights groups throughout the year.
Supervisor Fletcher said that opening up the forum to the community will help to clarify the role of local law enforcement in California.
“What we want to do is ensure that the community knows that it is not the job of a local law enforcement to enforce immigration policy," Fletcher said. "That is the job of the federal government.”
The purpose of the forum is also to create safer communities, Fletcher added.
“In order to have a community that feels safe, they have to feel confident that they can engage and interact with law enforcement,” Fletcher said.
Telemundo 20's Mar González contributed to this report.