Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes Monday released data he says shows a spike in recidivism in Orange County due to the so-called Sanctuary State law, but a criminal justice expert at UC Irvine said statewide surveys show little to no impact on crime rates.
Barnes said Senate Bill 54 "has made our community less safe. The law has resulted in new crimes because my deputies were unable to communicate with their federal partners about individuals who committed serious offenses and present a threat to our community if released."
Barnes' main complaint with the law is new rules that restrict how much dialogue local law enforcement can have with federal authorities with undocumented immigrant defendants.
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"The two-year social science experiment with sanctuary laws must end," Barnes said. "Rather than protect our immigrant community, the law has enabled offenders to be released, often times back into the immigrant communities they prey upon, and create new victims."
Barnes said 1,507 inmates released from Orange County Jail last year were listed as having ``ICE detainers,'' meaning Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities wanted notification when the inmate was about to be released from jail. Of those, 492 were transferred to ICE officials.
The state law restricts the notification to the most seriously violent suspects. Of the 1,015 inmates exempted from a notification to ICE, 238 were picked up again for new crimes in the county, Barnes said. Charges included assault and battery, rape and robbery, he said.
In 2018, there were 1,823 inmates in the county jail who had ICE detainers. The sheriff released 823 of them to federal authorities as allowed by the law, but another 1,106 were released and 173 committed new crimes in the county, Barnes said.
Charis E. Kubrin, a professor of criminology at UC Irvine, said two studies last year on the sanctuary state laws across the country indicated little to no impact on crime rates.
"Two studies both published in 2019 looked at sanctuary status at the city level throughout the United States," Kubrin told City News Service. "Both, in a nutshell, find that the adoption of a sanctuary policy is either associated with a reduction in crime or has no effect on crime."
One showed a decrease in robberies and no effect on homicides, she said.
Another study showed slightly more crime, but it was "very small and not statistically significant," Kubrin said.
Kubrin is set later this month to report on a study she worked on for California. She cannot release the results before the conference in Seattle, she said.
Kubrin questioned Barnes' statistics, saying the increases he indicated could have been due to other causes aside from the sanctuary state law.
"What they've presented is not convincing to me at all," Kubrin said. "But, to be fair, it could be our state-level findings do not apply to every county."
Still, Barnes' data "isn't really a study," she said.
"Crime and recidivism are driven by man, many factors, not all of which are related to policies," Kubrin said, adding that homelessness, poverty, and mental health issues are also significant contributors.