Sheriff Donny Youngblood’s proposal to make Kern County a “non-sanctuary” county has been shot down before even making it to the Board of Supervisors for a vote.
Chances are the plan, which was expected to be on the board’s Tuesday meeting agenda, won’t ever be taken up.
The county’s top lawyer, County Counsel Mark Nations, blocked the sheriff’s request to put the item on the agenda because the proposal is outside the supervisors’ jurisdiction.
“There is a misconception out there that if you want something on the agenda then you just put it on,” he said. “In researching the sheriff’s proposal, I came to the conclusion that the sheriff’s proposal was outside the board’s jurisdiction.”
The county and state have no say over how the federal government enforces immigration, Nations said. There’s also a statute, he said, that makes it clear the Board of Supervisors cannot obstruct the law enforcement work of the sheriff.
“Since the county cannot tell the sheriff whether he can cooperate with federal authorities,” he said, “(supervisors) would be making a declaration over something they have no jurisdiction on.”
The sheriff does not need any board action to do what he is doing, Nations said.
“I did speak to him about this. He’s out of town. He basically said I’m not agreeing with you but if you tell me that’s your legal analysis, then OK,” Nations said.
Youngblood had hoped to have supervisors pass a resolution declaring Kern County a “non-sanctuary” county — setting it apart from several other communities in California that were publicly declaring they would not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement officials.
But Nations said formalizing that stance wasn’t something the county could do, legally.
Supervisor Mick Gleason said the sheriff and county are searching for the right path forward.
“These are very challenging, difficult times and everybody is trying to do the best they can to keep the most people safe,” Gleason said. “(Youngblood) sees it his way and he’s going about it his way. That takes a lot of courage.”
Youngblood declined to comment on the decision Wednesday.
Federal law doesn’t require the sheriff to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement ,which means state law governs what Youngblood can and can’t do with inmates who are also immigrants in the country illegally, Nations has said.
A state law prevents Youngblood from detaining those immigrants at Lerdo Jail and handing them over to ICE.
He gets around that by allowing ICE officials to maintain space in Lerdo and giving them access to Kern County Sheriff’s Office databases so they can detain those immigrants on their own.
But Senate Bill 54, which has passed the California Senate and is proceeding through the Assembly’s legislative process, would prevent Youngblood from doing even that except for in cases of serious, violent offenders.
The law would essentially make California a sanctuary state.
In response, Youngblood proposed declaring Kern County a “non-sanctuary” county.
Nations previously said the proposal was largely symbolic and would have no practical or legal impact on county operations.
If SB 54 passes, Youngblood would still be required to comply with the law and would be forced to not cooperate with ICE agents, he said.
But Youngblood has said the goal of the resolution would be to send a message to state and federal officials about where Kern County stands — as a law-and-order county.
But a host of local individuals and groups has called that message harmful and divisive.
Cal State Bakersfield sociology Professor Gonzalo Santos, one of the organizers of a May Day March and Rally in downtown Bakersfield scheduled for Monday, said Youngblood’s arguments are logically flawed.
The laws, Santos said, are actually moving more toward protecting immigrants. Youngblood — in going against that movement — is actually opposing the law, he said.
He said organizers of the march had planned to urge participants to show up Tuesday at the Board of Supervisors’ meeting to oppose the proposal.
“Among the many demands for the march we have included the goal to denounce and defeat the sheriff’s proposal,” Santos said.
Youngblood, he said, represents the dying vision of Republicans from the 1990s when then-Gov. Pete Wilson championed ill-fated Proposition 187.
But it isn’t just university professors and activists who opposed the sheriff’s proposal.
Greg Wegis, a local farmer and past president of the Kern County Farm Bureau, wrote a letter to Supervisor Leticia Perez urging her to vote against the “non-sanctuary” resolution.
“I wanted to tell you that I hope you will be voting ‘no’ on the non-sanctuary county that Sheriff Youngblood is going to be asking for,” he wrote. “We have too many folks that are the backbone of our industry (that) are only here illegally because our current system does not allow for them to be here legally. There is a tremendous demand of the agriculture work in the county and our legal immigration system does not allow for them to be here legally. A dysfunctional system is the reason we are in a mess right now on illegal immigration.”