Sanctuary Initiative Will Cost Humboldt County, CA Taxpayers
By Colton R. Overcash | October 12, 2018
Humboldt County, California is inching closer to becoming a sanctuary county, and voters may not like the price tag that comes with it.
The Humboldt County Sanctuary Initiative, referred to as ‘Measure K’ on the November ballot, would prohibit almost all cooperation or communication between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities, regardless of an alien’s record or the nature of any suspected crimes. This measure goes well beyond even what the state’s sanctuary law, Senate Bill 54 (SB 54), already requires of each locality to protect illegal aliens from deportation.
If Measure K passes, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office will be required to provide a semi-annual report describing the rationale behind every detention involving an alien, as well as all communications with federal immigration authorities. The office will also have to track and document any trips made to the county by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other federal immigration officers. The “Human Rights Commission” will review the reports to determine compliance with the initiative, and then forward these reports to the county’s Board of Supervisors.
The measure will not be cheap. The Board of Supervisors’ latest report on Measure K estimated the cost of the initiative at between $171,500 and $312,650. The estimated costs include staff time, software and equipment, and actual monetary resources used to enforce the ordinance. The biggest cost would come from local law enforcement’s tracking and reporting of the initiative’s progress. That requirement alone could end up costing the county between $85,000 and $130,000.
The report also stated that these funds will be pulled from the county’s general operating budget, which also pays for law enforcement, first responders, and social services. This new expenditure could result in budget cuts elsewhere or a tax increase, which puts essential county services at risk. With a 2017 population estimated by the Census Bureau at a mere 136,754 people, Humboldt County’s total budget for the past fiscal year was only $377,507,071, so these aren’t insignificant numbers even if the measure stays under budget.
But County Supervisor Estelle Fennell (D-Fortuna/Rio Dell) predicted that the costs would actually come out higher, saying that she “can’t imagine that it’s going to be as cheap as $171,000 … It easily could even exceed $312 [thousand]. It seems there would be tremendous burden.”
Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal (R) has expressed skepticism towards sanctuary policies in general and Measure K in particular, saying he’d “rather have ICE go out to our jail than have ICE going into our community” and that the “measure is just not necessary.” Honsal further notes that his department is already struggling to patrol the entire county and needs to focus its attention on responding to crimes instead of reporting ICE to the county. “Staff time is already precious. We don’t have enough deputies … and so anytime we’re taking the deputies off of the street … [it] prevents them from keeping the public safe.”
In short, this initiative creates duplicative and bureaucratic duties for law enforcement that take them away from protecting public safety while also violating federal immigration law. It also creates unnecessary costs that will lead to higher taxes or reduced county services (or both). Humboldt County citizens deserve better.