Fresno County sees spike in ICE transfers

Report from Fresno County Sheriff indicates ICE transfers doubled in 2023, with 39 individuals moved into custody

Fresno County Sheriff John Zanoni presenting the Board of Supervisors with immigration statistics during the May 21 meeting. (Darren Fraser)
Darren Fraser
Published May 23, 2024  • 
9:00 am

FRESNO COUNTY – According to a report from the Fresno County Sheriff, 2023 marked a notable rise in ICE transfers, with 39 individuals being moved into custody—just over double the figure from 2022.

At the May 21 Fresno County Board of Supervisors meeting, Fresno County Sheriff John Zanoni presented statistics regarding the number of illegal immigrants the sheriff’s office turned over to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials last year. This is pursuant to California Senate Bill 54, the Truth and Values Act or TRUTH Act, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2018.

“The data we have here is from 2023,” Zanoni told the Board. “It’s a summary of the individuals who were transferred to ICE during that year. We had no ICE interviews conducted within our facility.”

According to Zanoni, in 2023 the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office (FSO) booked 25,810 individuals into the Fresno County Jail. The department received 204 ICE detainer requests. FSO transferred 39 individuals to ICE custody.

Zanoni provided a breakdown of the crimes committed by the 39 individuals who were transferred.

“Thirty of those 39 were crimes against persons,” he said. “In fact, 1/3rd were individuals who were involved in domestic violence crimes.”

Three of the 39 were involved in sex crimes.

“Two of those three were sex crimes involving children under the age of 14,” Zanoni added.

Three individuals were charged with crimes against property. The remaining three were charged with felony drug crimes.

DOUBLED FROM LAST YEAR

In 2022, FSO transferred 18 individuals to ICE. This fact wasn’t lost on critics of the department.

During public comments, Luis Ojeda, who identified himself as an organizer for the ACLU in Fresno County, read an email Maria Romani, senior staff attorney for the ACLU Northern California, sent to the clerk of the Board on May 20, 2024. Romani criticized FSO for its desultory responses to the ACLU’s Public Records Act (PRA) requests the organization regularly submits to the department.

“For three years, the sheriff’s office has failed to respond to our requests in a timely manner,” Romani wrote. “Most recently, it took more than three years to produce some responsive records to a request we submitted in March 2021, and part of the request remains unfilled.”

Romani said FSO lacks transparency, accusing the department of only disclosing transfer numbers and ICE detainer requests. She said the community is entitled to know the full scope of FSO’s interactions with ICE to ensure the department is complying with the state’s sanctuary law. Romani said FSO must disclose any changes it made to department policy concerning the implementation of the sanctuary law. It must make public the email exchanges with ICE authorities and make public the amount of funds it allocates to immigration enforcement.

Zanoni was quick to defend his department. Following Ojeda at the podium, Zanoni made the following remarks.

“Let it be noted for the record,” he said, “that 204 ICE detainers were received by our office. Thirty-nine were granted after a judge ordered these individuals be turned over to ICE. There were no – I mean zero – interviews conducted by ICE in our facility.”

He added, “These are serious crimes. Felony crimes. Sex crimes against children in our community. We take domestic violence very seriously and 13 of those crimes fall under California Penal Code Section 273.5, which is a felony.”

Board chairman Nathan Magsig assured Zanoni he has the Board’s backing.

“These TRUTH Act forums are difficult,” said Magsig. “Your office does a great job as far as this board is concerned. You have our full support.”

Since 2018, SB 54 requires that state law enforcement agencies make annual reports detailing their interactions with ICE.

Under SB 54, no state or local resources can be used to assist federal immigration enforcement. ICE can interview a jail inmate but only after the inmate consents to be interviewed and signs a form to that effect.

Darren Fraser
Reporter