Cortes: OC Sheriff Hutchens Wrong on CA Immigration Detention Bill

This weekend Orange County Sheriff, Sandra Hutchens, published an op-ed on the OC Register urging Governor Brown to veto the Dignity Not Detention Act (SB 1289) under the false argument that it is unconstitutional, and a convenient, newfound concern for immigrants’ well-being.

Authored by Senator Ricardo Lara and co-sponsored by Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) and the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, SB 1289 will improve conditions in California’s private and public immigration detention facilities, including the Sheriff’s Theo Lacy Jail and James Musick Facility, by codifying a uniform set of enforceable standards; provide additional protections for LGBTQ immigrants in detention like those in the Santa Ana City Jail; and most importantly, prohibit future and phase out existing contracts between local governments and private prison companies that operate immigration detention centers for a profit.

Not only does SB 1289 pass constitutional scrutiny, but it is one of the most important pro-immigrant pieces of legislation in years, and comes at a key moment in the movement against detention and deportations.

Sheriff Hutchens’ argument relies on the idea of federal pre-emption over immigration law to suggest that California is limited in phasing out contracts between its cities and private detention companies, under SB 1289, citing the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling against Arizona’s anti-immigrant SB 1070 law as an example.

While it is true that state immigration laws can be subject to field pre-emption by federal law as federal immigration power is viewed broadly, the federal government’s immigration power concerns the determination of who should or should not be permitted into the country.  Regulation of immigration detention conditions is outside the scope of the federal government’s immigration power. In fact, Congress has not passed any laws regulating the conditions of immigration detention centers, and SB 1289 expressly incorporates the only federal standards U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement has created. Likewise, in prohibiting a California municipality from contracting with a corporation to detain immigrants for profit, SB 1289 does not interfere with the federal government’s power to determine who may enter the country, acquire citizenship, or be deported. It simply ensures that California is not complicit in profit-driven human suffering.

Moving past the technicalities of “is it legal, is it not,” let’s address Sheriff Hutchens’ assertions that immigrant detention will continue unabated, and that ending detention for profit in California will only harm immigrant communities. This argument, though popular among supporters of immigration enforcement policies, has been proven wrong time and time again. Sheriff Hutchens argues that DHS will continue its current detention practices, and that immigrants taken into custody in California will simply be transferred elsewhere. But in making this argument, she ignores two important facts:

1) All major changes to immigration enforcement implemented by DHS have followed local and state action to support undocumented immigrants. When city, county, and state governments made the move to limit or completely stop honoring detainers through policies like California’s TRUST Act, DHS scrapped the Secure Communities program, and in response to the backlash against record deportations, expanded the Deferred Action program—two policies which pro-enforcement advocates called unrealistic until DHS took action.

2) DHS is already reviewing its own contracts with private detention facilities and evaluating whether they should cut their ties to private prison companies. The move comes as a result of growing opposition to the entire practice of immigration detention, including in public facilities like the one in Santa Ana, and a decision by the Justice Department to phase out its contracts with the same private prison companies that operate immigration detention facilities in California.

For California to end private immigration detention will be a powerful move that will increase the momentum and urgency at the federal level to dismantle the inhumane detention system.

Considering the history of our county’s Theo Lacy Facility, which is also used for immigration detention, Sheriff Hutchens’ opposition to the Dignity Not Detention Act may stem more from the bill’s other purpose: to put into law an enforceable set of standards to do away with abuse and inhumane conditions inside detention facilities.

With Theo Lacy being labeled as one of the 10 worst immigration detention facilities by the Detention Watch Network in 2012, and exposed by Univision on September 9, 2016, one day before Sheriff Hutchens announced her opposition to SB 1289, for its continued pattern of abuse, we cannot discount the fact that the OC Sheriff has a vested political interest in killing any piece of legislation that promises accountability for their consistent failure, or unwillingness, to care for our immigrant community members in detention.

The Dignity Not Detention Act is legally sound, and urgently needed—Sheriff Hutchens jail is proof of that.

Hairo Cortes is the Program Coordinator of the Orange County Immigrant Youth United, and a Steering Committee member of the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance. He is a Political Science student at Cal State Fullerton, and has been a leader in the campaign to end the immigration detention contract between the City of Santa Ana and ICE.

Opinions expressed in editorials belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.

Voice of OC is interested in hearing different perspectives and voices. If you want to weigh in on this issue or others please contact Voice of OC Involvement Editor Theresa Sears at

  • Ed Romero

    The only thing those 2 former Orange County Sheriff’s were good at protecting was the Rights of all their Criminal Friends, one of them with his $5,000’s a Year Club, one member use to beat his Wife until her face looked like a Smashed Over-ripe Plum and he would yell at her “call the Sheriff Department they won’t a thing about it, I belong to the $5000’s a Year Club (he was my former employer), this same member was stopped for Drunk Driving, he pulled out his Sheriff Special Officers Badge and we got an ESCORT home, so what if my former employer flew through a stop sign, so what if at one time he had the right side tires up on the sidewalk, NOTHING was done about it. So you see here in Orange County if you are WHITE, a member of the GOP and better yet a Member of the $5,000’s a Year Club the Laws do not apply to you.

  • LFOldTimer

    1) There is a point when the promotion of “human rights” becomes an act of stupidity. What about the “human rights” of all the US taxpayers who have to pay for all the lawbreakers who enter the country without permission? If a stranger walked into your home and started eating your food, using your toilet and sleeping in your bed without your permission would that be a “human right”?

    2) Destabilize so many countries? Are you joking? All of our manufacturing jobs have been offshored south of the border. We have been Mexico’s godsend. Without all those offshored jobs Mexico’s unemployment would be in high double digits. Plus, we give them foreign aid in the billions of dollars. A large chunk of their GDP is from money wired back to Mexico by illegal workers in America. Show some gratitude.

    3) Illegal immigrants live on many more US tax dollars than they pay into the system. In 2010 they received over $4 billion dollars in child tax credits compliments of the US taxpayers according to the inspector general of the US Treasury Department. A third of California’s prison population is illegal foreigners. Free medical care while ordinary US citizens have to pay through the nose for theirs.

    Most of us have no problem with legal immigrants. Understand the difference between LEGAL and ILLEGAL. I think that’s your problem. We actually like immigrants who play by the rules and come to America the legal way.

    “Valedictorians”? ha. Oh stop it. Your dramatizations are laughable. Have you researched the Santa Ana Unified academic performance lately?

    The US has provided nations south of the border with millions of jobs. Literally. So you have no idea of what you speak. Not to mention billions in foreign aid. Don’t bite the hand that feeds ya. Be grateful. It’s a virtue.

    You dodged the question whether you would allow someone to move into your home without your permission, use your resources and then be forced to pay for his or her medical care and education. But I expected it.

  • JMnew

    The issue isn’t about commodities or about having a lounging room, it’s about HUMAN RIGHTS!!! These detention centers are for profit and operate with little government oversight. These “illegals” as you call them are having their civil rights violated and are treated inhumanely. As for costing money, you want to get rid of the cost? Get rid of the detention centers silly goose! Also. many of those social habits of other nations are symptoms of U.S Imperialism and intervention … so, yeah you can keep quiet. And I could tell a 5th grader the moon is made of cheese and they’d see just as much logic in it as on your statement. Sorry for completely destroying your argument, and based on your comment I agree with you, you are a nation of liars. 😉

  • LFOldTimer

    A jail was never designed to be a comfortable place to visit and socialize with your friends. That was always one of the deterrents of breaking the law and going to jail.

    If jails mandated inmates to work for their room and board you would see inmate populations plummet. That would solve the problem. But nobody wants to tell the truth anymore. We have become a nation of liars, particularly in the last 25 years. It’s disgraceful.

    Our country cannot continue to harbor those who enter the country without permission and use our resources. We are the largest debtor nation in the world. Illegals cost us money. And it’s an easy way for the nations who do not properly control their own social habits to offload their problems on us. This is not hard to understand. I could explain it to a 5th grader and in a few minutes he or she would understand the logic. The problem is that we have full grown adults with agendas who refuse to have rational discussions or accept logical conclusions.

    • JMnew

      The issue isn’t about commodities or about having a lounging room , it’s about HUMAN RIGHTS!!! These detention centers are for profit and operate with little government oversight. These “illegals” as you call them are having their civil rights violated and are treated inhumanely. As for costing money, you want to get rid of the cost? Get rid of the detention centers silly goose! Also. many of those social habits of other nations are symptoms of U.S Imperialism and intervention … so, yeah you can keep quiet. And I could tell a 5th grader the moon is made of cheese and they’d see just as much logic in it as on your statement. Sorry for completely destroying your argument, but based on your comment I agree with you on one thing, you are a nation of liars. 😉

      • LFOldTimer

        Illegals in America shouldn’t be treated any differently than the way I would be treated by Mexico, Central or South America if I tried to live in their countries illegally and squander their resources at the expense of their taxpayers.

        America was not designed to be a catch-all for whatever other nations throw at us. I don’t think we’re getting any of their intelligentsia. Mostly, it’s those who provide little value to the foreign economies who come here illegally and expect us to pay the freight. That shows little respect for the American taxpayers.

        How would you like it if someone walked into your home and started using all your amenities without your permission? Then to add insult to injury demanded that you pay to educate them and take care of their day to day medical needs? Would you tolerate it?

    • shesaid1

      You’re right! Here’s some info to support your argument.

      Here’s what Law Enforcement really think of Obama’s “Priorities” of deporting Illegal Aliens Criminals:
      National Sheriffs’ Association Position Paper on Comprehensive Immigration Reform

      The National Sheriffs’ Association’s press release reaffirmed organization’s stance articulated in its 2013 position paper on immigration policy. (Id.)In the paper, the Association advocated for effective and efficient securing of the border, enforcement of the immigration laws currently on the books, requiring information sharing between local law enforcement and federal immigration officials, withholding federal reimbursement money from jurisdictions who refuse to cooperate with immigration officials, and strengthening employer verification requirements, among other things. (National Sheriff’s Association, Jun. 25, 2013) The paper concluded, “The National Sheriffs’ Association strongly opposes outright amnesty for those individuals currently here illegally. Amnesty does not work. When granted in 1986, it did little to stop the flow of illegal individuals from coming across the borders and, in fact, contributed to thousands of fraudulent applications for amnesty.”
      Bristol County, Massachusetts Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson

      “No longer can we sit idle while the inaction of our Federal Government marginalizes our ability to preserve public safety, enforce our laws, and protect the Constitutional rights of all who legitimately reside and work in our communities.”
      Sacramento sheriff criticizes Obama on immigration

      “Jones vowed to crusade against illegal immigration after the shooting rampage last month by a Mexican man with a long criminal history who was in the country illegally.”
      BREAKING: Pier 14 Murder Suspect Had Been Deported 5 Times with 7 Felonies

      “Five-time deportee and seven-time convicted felon Francisco Sanchez has been jailed on suspicion of shooting and killing 31-year-old Kathryn Steinle Wednesday evening while taking photos with her father at Pier 14 in San Francisco, California. Sanchez was freed after the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department refused to honor a request by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain him, following a policy adopted in 2014. He was arrested soon after the shooting.”
      By The Way, Ice Just Release 30,558 More Violent Criminal Illegal Aliens Onto American Streets
      ICE Document Details 36,000 Criminal Alien Releases in 2013
      U.S. misinformed Congress, public on immigrant release
      DHS document: 68,000 illegal immigrants with criminal convictions released in 2013
      Thousands of Illegal Immigrants Released — Including 3,000 With Felony Charges or Convictions

      • LFOldTimer

        LE is on the front lines and sees stuff that the rest of us don’t see. Although cops are overpaid I believe most (not all) have the nation’s best interests at heart.

        When it comes to immigration the Border Patrol should be the most listened to LE agency. Their union (rank and file) hates Obama with a passion for the damage he has inflicted with his policies on the American people. They have even lashed out at their Director on many occasions for carrying out Obama’s orders.

        America simply can’t sustain the onslaught of foreigners coming into the country without permission. It is a social and financial nightmare.

        Every nation has a PRIMARY responsibility to take care of their own. That holds true for America as well. We can’t save the world. Our global neighbors must take responsibility for their own populations and problems. We must demand it. Otherwise it puts the future of our nation in great peril.

        Thank you for your links.

    • shesaid1

      “ICE Director Saldaña Admits Dramatic Decline in Criminal Alien Deportations

      Testifying last week before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing focused on the Obama administration’s lax interior enforcement policies, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Sarah Saldaña admitted a dramatic decline in criminal alien deportations. ….Sessions was not satisfied, noting that her agency’s budget for deportation was increased from $2.6 billion in 2011 to $3.4 billion this year, and that the government even returned part of that allotment. (Id.) Summing up the hearing, Sessions said the decline in removals “demonstrated the failure of our system, when the one area that we were promised was going to be aggressively pursued was criminal aliens, and that is plummeting also. So there’s nothing really working effectively.”
      Criminal immigrants reoffend at higher rates than ICE has suggested
      Goodlatte: Administration’s Record of Releasing Criminal Aliens Has Gone from Bad to Worse

      Obama’s Budget Would Stop Reimbursing Prisons For Holding (Convicted) Illegal Immigrants

    • shesaid1

      Guess who, until very recently, has accepted (and hasn’t returned as yet) campaign funds from private prisons. I’ll give you a hint: a female presidential nominee.

      “The two commissioners who opposed the report said the agency has been unable to independently verify the reports of mistreatment. Some of the allegations included that food with maggots was served, an AIDS patient was ignored and died of her illness, transgender individuals are housed in facilities based on their birth gender and some children were sexually abused.

      “The chairman’s statement suggests that the treatment of detainees is comparable to torture,” wrote Commissioner Gail Heriot, a law professor at the University of San Diego.

      “Lots of ugly rumors are uncritically repeated — like the presence of maggots in the food served by detention center kitchens, sexual assaults, deaths, etc. Some of the rumors were investigated by DHS and others and found to be untrue or very unlikely, but the commission’s report doesn’t bother to mention those investigations. In no case did the commission undertake an investigation to determine the truth or falsity of a rumor it reported,” she wrote.

      In her rebuttal, included in the report, Heriot said: “It is said that where there is smoke, there is fire. But sometimes where there is smoke, there is only a smoke-making machine, busily stoked by publicists working for activist organizations.”

      She was joined by another commissioner who criticized the report.

      “Like mold on food left in the refrigerator for too long, the report has spread into an attack on the enforcement of the country’s immigration laws, and perhaps on their very existence. Much of the report is at least intellectually dishonest, other parts simply dishonest. This report is outside the commission’s jurisdiction and therefore most of this report is illegitimate,” said Commissioner Peter Kirsanow.

      • LFOldTimer

        “Guess who, until very recently, has accepted (and hasn’t returned as yet) campaign funds from private prisons. I’ll give you a hint: a female presidential nominee.”
        Gee, I’m shocked!

        Jails have never been known to be the cleanest institutions on earth. IOW’s I would strongly advise against anyone eating off a prison floor.

        Nations need to take care of their own people. If they can’t do it – then the leaders of those nations need to reform their social policy and cut down on the reproduction rates.

        None of us would tolerate our next door neighbors offloading their unwanted materials in our backyards.

        Rules are generally in place for a reason. They maintain the social order. When those rules are allowed to be openly violated it’s to the detriment of those who follow the rules and pay into the system.

        This is all common sense. Those who disagree are generally agenda driven at the expense of civilized society.