St. Joachim Church in Costa Mesa earlier this month hosted the first of three meetings between Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens and Spanish Council leaders from local churches. The sheriff’s mission: to set the record straight on what the sheriff’s department does and, perhaps more to the point, does not do, with respect to immigration enforcement, as it enforces the law.
After meeting with Bishop Kevin Vann, and then with priests at the Pastoral Center, Hutchens is now touring the churches to meet with the Spanish leadership of each. Two meetings are scheduled in June at St. Polycarp and St. Anthony Claret.
“We want to open dialogue through the Church with the immigrant community to get the facts out about what law enforcement does and does not do,” Sheriff Hutchens told about one dozen members of the St. Joachim Spanish leadership at the evening meeting. “I thought we’d have the best opportunity to do that if we could enlist the church’s help.”
Hutchens noted the flood of misinformation and confusing political statements, saying that it has resulted in misconceptions about the department’s role in immigration enforcement.
“As sheriff of Orange County, I run the jails,” Hutchens said. “We provide patrol services to 13 cities and unincorporated areas.” She continued: “We have never, nor will we, ask anyone their immigration status. We have never, nor will we, enforce immigration laws.”
Hutchens went on to explain that when someone is booked, there are certain offenses that the department can notify ICE on…such as serious and violent offenses. The result is that ICE goes to jail to pick up the individual who will then go through deportation proceedings.
“If I don’t do that,” Hutchens said, “ICE will go into the community in search of criminals… I don’t want that to happen – for someone who is just here undocumented to get caught up in that.”
Hutchens shared that just 580 people of all those that were booked last year were undocumented and had committed a violent or serious offense. Those names were given to ICE, she said. But almost 5,600 were released and not reported to ICE because they had not committed a serious crime.
Hutchens told those gathered: “I do not believe that the undocumented immigrant community commits a lot of crimes.” She added, “I’m here to try to get the facts to you and ask for your help to get facts out to the community.”