DISTRICT ATTORNEY OPINION
Jeff Rosen, District Attorney
For release Monday, October 31, 2011
WHY I SUPPORT THE CIVIL DETAINER TASK FORCE RECOMMENDATION
As the son and grandson of Holocaust survivors and those who lost their lives to Nazi tyranny, I know there is no greater symbol of government oppression than a midnight knock on the door by an authority figure asking for your identification papers. Fortunately, the Bill of Rights protects any individual on American shores from that sort of intimidation by government.
So needless to say, I carefully considered my response to the recent decision by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors to ignore all civil detainer requests from the Federal government and allow undocumented violent felons to be set free - despite a request by Federal law enforcement to hold them in custody – unless federal authorities pay the cost of an additional day's incarceration.
The immigration policy of the Federal government is as complex and multi-faceted as are the opinions of how to best reform immigration policy. I personally believe that if undocumented individuals or families have lived in the United States for some time, followed our laws, and become productive residents, then they have earned a path to American citizenship.
But my opinion on Federal immigration policy is simply that, an opinion. As the District Attorney of Santa Clara County, my job is to make judgments about the prosecution and sentencing of criminals to ensure a safe and peaceful community for all.
With that crucial responsibility in mind, I cannot support any decision to allow violent offenders to be returned to Santa Clara County neighborhoods sooner than necessary under the law. While I understand in the abstract that unfunded mandates are unfair to local government, this dispute isn’t about money because the Federal government provided the County $1.3 million this year toward the cost of incarcerating undocumented criminals.
Rather, I believe this policy to ignore all civil detainer requests is about specifics - about potential assaults, robberies, rapes, child molestations, shootings and murders. It is about keeping all Santa Clara County residents, documented or not, safe from dangerous criminals. My office is prosecuting several recent cases concerning undocumented individuals from regions as diverse as India, Mexico and the Czech Republic. One defendant was charged with rape, another threatened a female prosecutor and her family, and another molested a child. Once criminals have committed these types of violent offenses, studies demonstrate they are more likely to victimize again. We simply cannot justify allowing any undocumented violent felon to be freed if we have the ability to detain them longer so that the Federal government can determine whether to begin deportation proceedings.
While I respect our county supervisors and our county executive, I strongly disagree with them regarding this issue. I encourage them to follow the recommendation of the Civil Detainer Task Force that they commissioned and on which the Sheriff and I served, and restore the policy of detaining violent undocumented felons for 24 hours prior to their release. That policy is balanced and respects people’s civil rights because it does not apply to non-violent offenders. What is also clear about the Civil Detainer Task Force recommendation is that it prioritizes public safety. Isn’t that something we can all agree on?