El Dorado County sheriff speaks out against California ‘sanctuary’ state bill
May 13, 2017
Disturbed that a bill to make California a sanctuary state is being considered, El Dorado County Sheriff John D'Agostini sat down last week to discuss the bill and why he opposes it.
In its present form, SB 54 would limit state and local law enforcement agencies from being involved in immigration enforcement and would ensure that eligible individuals are able to seek services from state agencies without regard to their immigration status.
The bill has already been passed by the state Senate but is in limbo at present according to D'Agostini. "It's been assigned to Assembly committees, but is not being taken up," he said.
The Sheriff said one of the problems opponents of the bill are up against is one of its supporters Assemblyman Jim Cooper.
"He is a retired Sheriff's captain and should know how bad this bill is, but is supporting it to get some of his other bills through," D'Agostini said. "If we could back him off that, a lot of the Democratic side of the house who rely on him because of his history, would flee and it would die. But he's not backing down."
D'Agostini said his main objection to the law is that it is unconstitutional, which is why he wouldn't enforce it.
"Immigration enforcement is the federal government's purview." he said, certain that if the bill passes it will be challenged and overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
"The courts have ruled since 1875 that immigration is absolutely a federal responsibility," he said, adding that a more recent court ruling in the case of Arizona et al v. United States (2012) reaffirmed who is responsible for immigration control.
D'Agostini said SB 54 is similar to another bad bill — AB 109 — that shifted the incarceration of a certain number of state prisoners to county prisons in response to a lawsuit based on over-crowding in state prisons.
"We have inmates as a result of AB 109 who have been here for 14 years," he said. "These are people who formerly would have gone to state prison. As a result, we have to deal with their medical issues, prison politics, fights and assaults on staff. It's just crazy what's going on in our jails because of that bill."
He predicted if SB 54 passes, the state will be living with it forever just as it is with AB 109.
At the same time, D'Agostini said he wanted to make it very clear that just because he opposes the bill, Sheriff's deputies won't be up at Apple Hill or in the vineyards doing immigration sweeps.
"That is the business of the feds," he said. "We have never done that and we are never going to do that. But as far as SB 54 is concerned, it is 100 percent unconstitutional."
The Sheriff said he has already received calls from those in the agricultural business worried his position on the bill means that deputies would be going into the fields and arresting illegal aliens. He even had a visit from a group of Democratic women who asked about the issue because they believed he would start rounding up illegals. However, the Sheriff said he was able to allay their fears.
"I also want to alleviate the fears of those in the Agriculture industry," he said. "I understand the value of their workers. They are here illegally but I understand it. But that's not who we are talking about. I'm not talking about their workers, I'm talking about the crooks and criminals and I don't want them in my county."
One example of such a person is Luis Monroy Bracamontes, an illegal immigrant accused of killing two Sacramento-area deputies in October 2014 in addition to attempting the murder of three other people during an all day crime spree.
He had previously been deported several times for other crimes yet was able to return to the U.S. repeatedly. Bracamontes is currently being held in the El Dorado County jail while he awaits trial.
"If my deputies come across an illegal immigrant and the person is victimizing others, we will communicate with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) that when the person's due process is done here, he or she is out of here. That's a public safety issue," D'Agostini said.
Asked what might be the consequences if he refused to follow the law if it does pass, D'Agostini said the feds would be on his side.
"I also think there are enough people in El Dorado County who would support me if they showed up to arrest me," he said.
"More likely, I think the state would bring an injunction against me telling me to cease and desist or an attorney would start a lawsuit over one person ICE was ready to pick up," D'Agostini said. I don't think the state wants to martyr a sheriff like me or other sheriffs who are against this bill like Donny Youngblood in Kern County, or Margaret Mims of Fresno County or Adam Christianson who is the Sheriff of Stanislaus County. That's where it's all going to start."
D'Agostini said he is also worried about the practical effects of the bill on law enforcement. "If we are doing a large-scale drug investigation and some of the suspects are illegal, are we going to bifurcate the case so we can only work on the legal suspects and the feds can only work on the illegals? How are we going to work this out? It doesn't make any sense."
SB 54 could also end up costing the state money it would otherwise receive from the federal government.
The Sheriff said he just prays the bill doesn't make it out of committee or the Governor doesn't sign it although he's not optimistic.
In the meantime, he plans to make El Dorado County a sanctuary from the sanctuary state if SB 54 does pass.