San Mateo County has further codified its refusal to collaborate with federal immigration authorities in most cases by passing an ordinance that restricts county employees from sharing information with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or assisting the agency in any way with immigration enforcement.

The law approved at the April 25 Board of Supervisors meeting prevents county departments and employees from using county resources to assist ICE by detaining or transferring anyone already in custody or helping with an arrest. It has exceptions for cases in which a federal judge has signed off on a warrant for immigration proceedings and investigations that do not involve immigration enforcement, such as human trafficking and other crimes.

The ordinance passed by a vote of 4-1, with Supervisor Ray Mueller being the lone holdout. He said he did not support the ordinance’s lack of an exception for assisting ICE in deportation cases in which someone has been convicted of certain violent felonies such as murder, rape, and lewd and lascivious acts against children.

An amendment that would have added such an exception was defeated 4-1 before the final vote.

A ‘great relief’ for immigrants

Supervisor David Canepa said the law puts San Mateo County in line with sanctuary policies in neighboring San Francisco and Santa Clara counties.

“This ordinance brings great relief to our immigrant communities who mistrust law enforcement and particularly ICE. Many immigrants don’t report crimes out of fear of being deported and that makes us all less safe,” Canepa said.

California lawmakers passed the California Values Act in 2017 that forbids local law enforcement in the state from assisting ICE in immigration enforcement. San Mateo County’s previous sheriff initially balked at the restriction, asserting that the Sheriff’s Office was constitutionally authorized to independently cooperate with federal law enforcement. The policy was changed by the Sheriff’s Office in 2021, bringing the office in line with state law.

Sheriff Christina Corpus, who took office in January, said she supported the ordinance and that the Sheriff’s Office would not assist ICE, except for the reasons outlined in the law.

The ordinance goes into effect May 25.

County Counsel John Nibbelin said during a previous board meeting that if a future sheriff changed the policy again it could create a constitutional challenge in court.