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Sheriff: "I Will Decide Then Which Law to Break"

Proposed state immigration law in conflict with federal immigration mandate.

s said he will wait to see if a proposed state immigration act is signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown before deciding whether to uphold it in defiance of a federal mandate -- or ignore it and adhere to federal law.

 "If it is signed by the governor, I will decide then which law to break," Freitas told a crowd of about 75 people at a Town Hall in Healdsburg Thursday.

It was the second annual Town Hall organized by . Freitas was the guest of honor.

Freitas, responding to a question from Healdsburg attorney said the Trust Act, if signed by Brown, would allow local law enforcement authorities to release undocumented immigrants who are being held on a federal detainer if they are not serious offenders and are non-violent.

The Trust Act cleared the state Legislature earlier this month.

Freitas said he hopes the matter is resolved in the courts before he has to choose whether to violate either statute.

"I hope some sheriff goes to a judge to ask for relief," said Freitas, who declined to state his preference in advance on which law to uphold in an article on the issue earlier this month in the Los Angeles Times.

"I don't think a sheriff should say in advance that we'll violate any law," Freitas told the crowd at

In the LA Times story, the Los Angeles County sheriff says he plans to stick with the federal law, which allows law enforcement to detain people, even if they have not committed a serious crime.

Freitas and other sheriffs in the article say it will put them in a difficult position by forcing them to renege on their obligations under the federal Secure Communities program, which deported about 400,000 undocumented immigrants in 2011.

"It would make me break either federal or state law. I would have to pick which one to break,"  Freitas is quoted as saying.

To read the article, click here.

Healdsburg resident urged Freitas "to the extent possible," to lean in the direction of releasing immigrants who are "good members of the community and non-violent" from being detained.

"I would ask that you let them go," Nuese said. "Why continue to have that drain on our resources?"

In other announcements by Freitas on Thursday, assaults on staff or other inmates at Sonoma County Jail are up 50 percent since Oct. 1, 2011, when the state ordered a realignment of the prison system.

Freitas said the result of the realignment is that inmates who are serving longer prison terms now are coming to Sonoma County Jail, which was originally meant for inmates serving one year or less. As a result, the longer-term inmates tend to develop more gang activity within the jail.

The realignment also sent Sonoma County parollees back home into the care and jurisdiction of Sonoma County parole and probation department, rather than the state. He said there are about 200 parollees who have been returned to the county.

In the good news department, Freitas said crime is down significantly in the county this year over the same period in 2011. Healdsburg, he said, had an exceptionally low crime rate.

"You're in a good spot here," he said.

Freitas, a former Windsor Police Chief who took the county office in January 2011, said he has forged good working relationships between his department and small Sonoma County cities, such as Healdsburg.

"It used to be that the sheriff's department and the small cities parted ways at times," he said. "That has stopped -- if Healdsburg needs help, if Cotati needs help, if Cloverdale needs help, we're there."

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Barbara Klein August 31, 2012 at 06:00 PM
"Illegal immigrant "implys that they are illegal therefore breaking the law and should be incarcerated until the case is resolved or bail is set. What's the problem?

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