SAN MATEO COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors passed a sanctuary ordinance to protect asylum seekers -- even those convicted of murder, rape and child molestation.
Supporters argue the legislation that passed with a 4-1 vote last week will bring more equality for asylum seekers.
But, critics argue it could come at a cost - threatening public safety.
If passed, the county will have no ability to work with ICE to deport asylum seekers convicted of murder, rape and child molestation after their release from prison. While the ordinance passed the first round, it won't go into effect until there is a second vote next week.
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"Transfers to ICE result in double punishment for immigrants," said Sup. David Canepa, who authored the legislation. "Whether it's child molestation, I do believe there's a higher power. I do believe they have the ability to make amends and not commit future crimes."
The ordinance prohibits all departments in San Mateo County from using county funds to cooperate with requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) without a federal judicial warrant, which are only typically granted for active investigations.
Sup. Ray Mueller represents a large portion of the county's agricultural community. He was the only one to vote against the legislation.
"I'm concerned about it, that's why I've taken a stand," said Sup. Mueller. "When a person, a convicted rapist, child molester, or murderer is released from prison, we will have no ability to work with ICE in order to deport that individual."
The controversy over the exemptions
The Bay Area Border Relief is supporting asylum seekers, saying it is against the ordinance citing concerns over the excluded exemptions.
The I-Team scheduled an interview with Sup. Canepa, who authored the ordinance, to discuss concerns from viewers.
Stephanie Sierra: "Why didn't you support the three exemptions for those convicted of murder, rape and child molestation?"
Sup. Canepa: "When it comes to those types of crimes you're exactly right, we're not going to cooperate with ICE. Why should there be double punishment?"
Sierra: "But, the question supervisor, was why didn't you support those three exemptions?"
Sup. Canepa: "The answer to that is, we took it on its totality, Stephanie. We heard from families... there are people that have served their time. They should be released."
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One of the organizations against the ordinance is Bay Area Border Relief -- an organization devoted to support children and families seeking asylum in the U.S. Lili Rey is the co-founder.
"It just feels wrong," said Rey. "You come to this country, you got to follow the rules."
Rey has made seven trips to the border providing resources to families separated and currently is offering housing to dozens of families, many of whom were separated.
Sources confirmed to the I-Team a man seeking asylum in San Mateo County has been charged with molesting a 14-year-old girl.
"It's horrific and revolting," said Rey. "The concern of him getting out, like anyone, is that he will do it again."
Concern over recidivism
Sierra: "Do you know the recidivism rate of convicted criminals seeking asylum?"
Sup. Canepa: "I don't know... I don't know."
The Dept. of Justice published a study that examined 191 child molesters 15 to 30 years after their release and found the highest rate of recidivism was among child molesters with previous sexual offenses.
Sierra: "Does that change your answer?"
Sup. Canepa: "No. Look Stephanie, that's not going to change my mind.... What's the difference if we have someone who commits a crime that's a non-immigrant than someone who is an immigrant? How is the community safer?"
Sierra: "The question was how can you make that assumption without knowing the recidivism rate of convicted criminals seeking asylum?"
Sup. Canepa: "You've heard what I said..."
Sierra: "But the question was, how does that make it safer?"
Sup. Canepa: "Oh, I hear you... I understand what you're saying. Let me walk that back."
Sup. Canepa added he's heard from people in the community who are scared to cooperate with police out of fear they will get deported. But critics argue the victims of crimes committed by convicted criminals released from prison will share that same fear.
Sup. Mueller told the I-Team he plans to re-introduce the same three exemptions for murder, rape and child molestation next Tuesday for the final vote on the ordinance.
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