Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said Monday that he believes pending legislation preventing state and local police agencies from using their resources to assist federal immigration authorities would be invalid because it conflicts with federal law.
“I have a strong belief that it violates federal law,” Jones told reporters at the Capitol, where opponents of Senate Bill 54 by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León gathered to denounce the bill. “And federal law reigns supreme.”
“Every sheriff is going to be in a very difficult position to decide what they personally are going to do should this pass,” he added.
Jones, joined by colleagues from Kern and Kings counties, as well as GOP Sens. Joel Anderson and Jim Nielsen, did not explicitly say he would ignore the state law in favor of the federal statute. Instead, he said he hoped Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, whom he described as the potential “last line of defense,” “will see that law enforcement has already been hamstrung enough.”
“This is just the latest in the ill-conceived basket full of poor public safety legislation,” said Jones, a Republican with a law degree.
De León, other Democrats and immigrant rights advocates argue the measure would help build trust between law enforcement and immigrant communities, thus reducing crime. But they’ve acknowledged the powerlessness they feel in halting federal action.
Asked how big a problem countywide violent crime committed by undocumented immigrants is, Jones answered, “it’s huge.”
“We have a growing violent crime problem,” he said. “I am not going to sit here and say that the undocumented criminals are far worse than the citizen criminals. That’s just not the case. But you have to understand that there’s a percentage of each group, (or) demographic, including undocumented, that commits horrific crimes and preys upon other people.”
Jones said his department must be allowed to “passively cooperate” with immigration enforcement agents in his county jail.
He added: “We need to have that continue because there are people that the community needs to be protected from.”