State Attorney General Kamala Harris waded into the immigration debate, telling local law enforcement Tuesday that they have the power to ignore Obama administration requests that they hold illegal immigrants. By issuing a bulletin to local police and sheriffs, Harris is challenging President Barack Obama, her friend and ally. She campaigned for him four years ago and again this year, and he campaigned for her when she won election in 2010. Harris also is a savvy politician who knows how to count. Latinos probably will support her stand, and they made up more than 20 percent of the California electorate last month. Harris’ position undermines Obama’s Se Communities program, which has led to the deportation of 1.4 million illegal immigrants, many of whom broke no laws but for their undocumented immigration status.
Sheriffs in Bay Area counties are divided on whether they must go along with federal requests to turn over suspected illegal immigrants who land in local jails, an issue raised anew this week by state Attorney General Kamala Harris. San Francisco complies only if an immigrant booked on suspicion of a crime already has a serious criminal record. Santa Clara County, under a policy approved last year by its Board of Supervisors, goes a step further and won’t hold anyone for immigration authorities unless the federal government funds the cost of an extra day’s confinement, a price the government has declined to pay. Alameda, Contra Costa and San Mateo counties hand over all inmates sought by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a policy also backed by the California State Sheriffs Association. But Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston says he’s considering a change after meeting with local Latino and clergy groups.