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San Diego County won't heed immigration holds

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- The San Diego County Sheriff's Department said that it would stop holding people in jail simply because immigration authorities ask.

California's second most populous county becomes the largest in the state to adopt new limits on cooperation with immigration authorities after a federal judge in Oregon ruled last month that a woman's constitutional rights were violated when she was held in jail without probable cause.

Sheriff Bill Gore said Thursday that his department would no longer hold people because federal authorities have “an immigration interest.” It will continue to hold detainees if the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency provides arrest warrants showing probable cause and will also notify ICE of the time and location of a detainee's release, presumably offering the agency an opportunity to make its own arrest.

Gore gave no explanation for his decision in a brief statement but he joins other sheriffs who have decided to restrict cooperation with ICE after last month's ruling that Maria Miranda Oilvares should not have been held for more than two weeks in an Oregon jail at ICE's request because she had been sentenced to only two days in jail for contempt of court.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which pressured sheriffs to change their policies after the Oregon ruling, said San Diego and Sacramento counties on Thursday brought to nine the number of counties that have stopped honoring ICE requests made solely on immigration grounds. A Sacramento County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman did not immediately respond to an email Thursday night.

Sheriff's departments in Contra Costa cited the ruling when it said this month that it would stop honoring ICE's requests. The Alameda County Sheriff's Office stopped honoring requests but said ICE could continue to have a presence in its jails.

“This is a huge policy reversal and a major victory for our communities, one that advocates have been working on for years,” said Homayra Yusufi-Marin, policy advocate for the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties.

ICE gave no indication of changing course in a statement Thursday that defended its practices.

“When law enforcement agencies turn over criminals into ICE custody rather than into the community, it helps protect both public safety and the safety of law enforcement. To further this shared goal, ICE anticipates that law enforcement agencies will comply with detainers,” the agency said.

California already moved to limit cooperation with ICE under a law that took effect Jan. 1 and has resulted in a sharp decline in how many immigrants are turned over by sheriff's departments. Under the law, immigrants facing trial on serious criminal charges or with serious criminal records can be held on immigration grounds, but those charged with lesser crimes are released on bail or after serving time, just like Americans.

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Amy Taxin in Santa Ana, California, contributed to this report.

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