On September 7, 2013, Martha Casillas, a 39-year-old mother of three, was brutally stabbed to death in her San Jose home while her children watched television in the next room. The police identified the alleged killer as Mario Chavez, the victim’s domestic partner and father of Casillas’ children. Chavez is an illegal alien according to police and relatives.
A month prior to Casillas’ murder, Chavez allegedly threatened his six-year-old son with a knife and was arrested on suspicion of criminal threats and domestic violence. He was later released from the Santa Clara County jail on a $2,000 bond.
United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials state that Casillas’ murder was preventable and blame Santa Clara County’s sanctuary policy for Chavez’s release. Santa Clara County, along with a handful of other localities which seek to impede federal enforcement of immigration law, ignores ICE detainer requests unless the detainee has been convicted of a serious or violent felony. (Santa Clara County Anti-Detainer Policy)
An ICE detainer request asks jails to hold certain inmates for no more than an additional 48 hours to allow ICE agents time to make arrangements for the transfer of the alien into federal custody for the purpose of arresting and removing the alien. Santa Clara County’s policy also prevents local law enforcement from notifying ICE of the detainee’s incarceration status or release date.
In this case, Chavez did not have a criminal record, other than a DUI conviction, so law enforcement officials could not cooperate with an ICE detainer request, nor notify ICE that Chavez had been released on bond.
In the week following Casillas’ murder, the California State Legislature passed a bill that would require a similar sanctuary policy state-wide. Assembly Bill 4, the so-called “Trust Act,” generally bans local law enforcement officials from detaining any person on the basis of an ICE hold after that individual becomes eligible for release, except in a limited number of circumstances. Even then, AB 4 gives state and local law enforcement officials the option of releasing the most dangerous criminal aliens back onto the streets.
Sanctuary policies like AB 4 prioritize the interests of criminal aliens and undermine public safety. In 2012, former ICE Director John Morton stated his opposition to anti-detainer legislation. In a letter to FAIR, Morton warned that jurisdictions that ignore ICE detainer requests undermine public safety in their communities, noting that his agency has documented serious crimes committed by deportable aliens who have been released rather than handed over to ICE.
Similarly, former ICE Director Julie Myers Wood reportedly said regarding AB 4, “It makes no sense and is unconstitutional. The federal government has sole authority to enforce immigration law. In this instance California is telling the feds what you can and cannot do.”
The California State Sheriffs Association also opposes AB 4 and similar sanctuary policies. During an interview with PRI Public Radio International on September 10, CSSA spokesman Aaron Maquire said, “You get a request from a federal law enforcement agency, and to say that you should basically willfully disobey, or not cooperate, or thwart that request from law enforcement puts local law enforcement in a difficult position.”
Likewise, the California District Attorneys Association, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, and California Taxpayers for Improving Public Safety oppose AB 4. Representatives of the California District Attorneys Association said, “[W]e fear this bill would frustrate local cooperation with federal officials who maintain exclusive province over the enforcement of immigration law. It appears that this bill would permit a local policy to trump federal law, and it is not clear how such a provision would pass constitutional muster.” (See Opposition Statement, Senate’s Bill Analysis of AB 4)
AB 4 was sent to Governor Brown on September 18. He can sign it, veto it, or let the 30 day time period for action run out, in which case the bill becomes law. The Governor has until October 13 to act.