San Diego Sheriff’s Department’s Immigration Enforcement Policy

Concerned about statements made by Sheriff Bill Gore in a transcript of his conversation with the San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board, the ACLU sent a letter today asking Sheriff Gore for clarification of his department’s policy on detaining individuals solely suspected of being undocumented and on using race as a factor when deciding to stop, question, or detain individuals.

In answer to a question about his department’s policy on immigration enforcement, Sheriff Gore replied, “If in the course of our law enforcement responsibilities we’re in contact with people, and during the course of that contact it becomes apparent that we have reason to believe they could be in the country illegally, we will notify Border Patrol and detain them, for less than an hour.”

In the letter, ACLU executive director Kevin Keenan asked the sheriff to clarify departmental policy and assure the community that “your deputies will neither detain individuals solely on account of their suspected undocumented status, nor use race as a factor when deciding to question, stop or detain individuals.”

The ACLU contends that any enforcement of civil immigration by Sheriff’s deputies, including detention solely on the basis of suspicion of undocumented status, is preempted by federal authority and therefore is unlawful.

The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties regularly receives reports that Latinos who are not engaged in any criminal activity are questioned and asked to produce identification by local law enforcement. The ACLU believes that such “selective investigation” on the basis of Latino or other ethnicity is prohibited by equal protection laws, and that consensual encounters between officers and individuals violate equal protection when initiated solely because of race. Neither being Latino in appearance nor speaking Spanish may be used as a basis for deciding to investigate an individual’s immigration status.

“The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties has high hopes that during your tenure as Sheriff, the immigrant communities of San Diego will be drawn out of the shadows, with better public safety outcomes and enhanced civil liberties for the entire county. We are confident that you share this goal,” reads Keenan’s letter. “However, the detention of persons solely on the basis of suspicions about their immigration status and the use of racial profilling would be major impediements.”

ACLU Letter to Sheriff Gore