San Mateo County votes to restrict assisting ICE


San Mateo County website

The ordinance restricting County assistance to ICE passed by a vote of 4-1

San Mateo County’s Board of Supervisors voted to end cooperation with federal agencies, such as U.S. Immigration, and Customs Enforcement (ICE), last week, prohibiting the use of county funds in collaboration with these agencies. The Board voted 4-1 in support of the ordinance.

While some exceptions will be made, such as in criminal investigations, this further extends similar policies, such as the County Sherrif’s Office policy, which since November 2021, no longer aids ICE in the detention or transfers without judicial warrants.

District’s undocumented students and allies encouraged by ordinance

Many San Mateo County’s Community College District staff and students support this vote.

“I think it’s a good direction moving forward,” said Martin Marquez of the Skyline College Dream Center. “Just because our students already feel uncomfortable and unsafe and don’t feel as protected with already being undocumented in an institution like this. And to already unveil themselves as being undocumented comes with a lot of work and bravery. But the fact that now, the county is now pushing forward with more support, I think that is able to make students feel prouder.”

The Board’s vote along with much of the District’s policies point towards the region’s inclusiveness of students regardless of citizenship status.

Arthur Veloso, a student leader at the Dream Center agrees, pointing out how the center focuses on offering support to undocumented students and the broader community with legal services and resources such as groceries.

The District serves over 400 non-resident/AB540 students and the Dream Center serves over 70 students as of fall.

Not all supervisors agree with the specifics

Supervisor Ray Mueller dissented, explaining that the ordinance leaves gaps in safety. “Restrictions don’t apply to human trafficking. Under California state law, in the Values Act, counties are not allowed to assist ICE except in minimal circumstances [such as] felonies misdemeanors, [the Board] wants to go further.”

“You’re going too far. I would say, ‘Don’t eliminate felony murder, felony rape, and felony child molestation,'” Mueller told The Skyline View.

Local immigration advocates view this as a win

Advocates say this ordinance will ensure people in the undocumented community can better report criminal activity.

“If they have a fear that Government officials are going to turn them over to be placed in ICE detention then, that that does instill a culture of fear and mistrust, and oftentimes [that’s] what we’ve experienced as attorneys, representing at no cost undocumented immigrants,” said Amanda Alvarado Ford, Executive Director of La Raza Centro Legal. “They are, unfortunately, prey to predators in our society.”

“Oftentimes they could be harmed in their workplaces; they could be victims of sexual harassment or an unlawful sexual battery in the workplace,” Alvarado Ford added. “And so, if those survivors of crimes that happen here in the U.S. […] feel mistrust with U.S. law enforcement, then they’re not going to go report those crimes to police.”

“This is a day to celebrate for those who may have been hesitant to report a crime for fear of retaliation and deportation,” said Supervisor David Canepa after the vote. “This aligns the county with neighboring San Francisco and Santa Clara counties’ sanctuary policies and ensures that our justice system treats immigrants equally and prevents double punishment.”

“The recent vote by the San Mateo County’s Board of Supervisors is an important step forward to safeguard civil rights,” said Shiu-Ming Cheer, Deputy Director of Programs and Campaigns at the California Immigrant Policy Center. “We know that a majority of Californians are opposed to ICE’s harmful detention and deportation practices. San Mateo County has now moved forward to match these values and to protect all of the immigrants who call San Mateo home.”

The ordinance reaffirms California’s previous policies regarding assistance to ICE.

“It has been six years now since California made itself a “sanctuary state,” whereby county sheriffs do not honor ICE detainers for deportation, except in the case of violent felonies,” political science professor Jeff Diamond explained.

Another vote on an amendment submitted by Supervisor Ray Mueller before the final vote on the ordinance will take place at Tuesday’s board meeting.