Sonoma County Sheriff fires back at ICE after 'attack' amid North Bay fires

SONOMA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano fired back at federal immigration officials on Thursday after the acting director of ICE publicly criticized the agency.

An unverified report from Breitbart News is at issue. It says that an undocumented immigrant set the devastating wildfire in Sonoma Valley.

The man is currently in custody facing unrelated arson charges. The sheriff's office says it's "highly unlikely" he's to blame.

RELATED: Interactive map shows widespread damage of North Bay fires

Ice released a statement Wednesday reading, in part, "Once again, a non-cooperative jurisdiction has left their community vulnerable to dangerous individuals and preventable crimes."

Giordano issued his own strongly worded response Thursday saying, in part, that, "ICE attacked the sheriff's office in the midst of the largest natural disaster this county has ever experienced."

You can read both of the agencies' responses below.

Sonoma County Sheriff statement:

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a press release yesterday that was inaccurate, inflammatory, and damages the relationship we have with our community.

Here are the facts surrounding the recent arrest of Jesus Fabian Gonzalez. Gonzalez was arrested by the Sheriff's Office on October 15, 2017 for felony arson. He's being held in the Sonoma County jail on $100,000 bail for this arson charge and a $100,000 misdemeanor drug warrant from Ventura County. His bail for the current arson charge was raised by the Sonoma County courts.
This arson arrest occurred in Maxwell Farms Park in the Sonoma Valley. Gonzalez is a Sonoma Valley resident who was recognized by deputies and has been seen sleeping in the same park where he started the fire. Gonzalez told the deputies he lit the fire to warm himself up.

Cal Fire is investigating the cause of the wildland fires that devastated our community. They have not released a cause. We don't know if these fires were arson or caused by another source. There is no indication that Gonzalez had anything to do with these fires and it appears highly unlikely.

ICE sent a detainer requesting the Sheriff's Office hold Gonzalez for 48 hours past his scheduled release time. However, this detainer is not signed by a judge so the Sheriff's Office cannot legally honor it. Multiple Federal court cases have determined these administrative detainers are unconstitutional. Notably, the Miranda-Olivares v. Clackamas County case found administrative detainers are an unreasonable seizure and, therefore, are a violation of the Fourth Amendment. ICE has the ability to obtain a warrant for anyone they are interested in like we do every day in this county. If ICE obtains a warrant I can legally hold the person and would be happy to do so.

Regardless of ICE's request, Gonzalez is being held on $200,000 bail. Mr. Gonzalez will face his arson charge in Sonoma County. He was arraigned on October 18, and is awaiting his next court date in the Sonoma County Jail, where he will remain until his arson case is adjudicated. After that, Ventura County will have their chance to bring him to justice in their community.

Gonzalez has been in our jail approximately 8 times for minor misdemeanor offenses. We have notified ICE about his release in several of those arrests as they took place before our recent policy change. We will continue to notify ICE if it complies with law and our policy. But as I stated earlier, they can seek a warrant and we will hold him.

ICE attacked the Sheriff's Office in the midst of the largest natural disaster this county has ever experienced. Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated, many people have lost their homes and 23 people have died from this firestorm. ICE's misleading statement stirs fear in some of our community members who are already exhausted and scared.

Please be assured that I will do everything to protect this community. That includes working with ICE cooperatively and within our policy and the law. Despite ICE's misleading statement, we will continue to protect and serve our community members with the strength and compassion they deserve. I hope to end this senseless public confrontation with these facts so that I may focus on the fire recovery.

Sheriff Rob Giordano

Statement from ICE Acting Director on Sonoma County:

"Once again, a non-cooperative jurisdiction has left their community vulnerable to dangerous individuals and preventable crimes. ICE lodged a detainer against Jesus Gonzalez with Sonoma County jail officials on October 16, following his arrest on felony charges for maliciously setting fire to a property. This is especially troubling in light of the massive wildfires already devastating the region. Over the past year, ICE has lodged detainers against Mr. Gonzalez after four separate arrests by Sonoma County on various felony and misdemeanor charges. ICE was never notified of Mr. Gonzalez' various releases. Additionally, Mr. Gonzales has been returned to his home country of Mexico on two separate occasions. The residents of Sonoma County, and the state of California, deserve better than policies that expose them to avoidable dangers. Non-cooperation policies - now enshrined in California state law - ensure only one thing: criminals who would otherwise be deported will be released and left free to reoffend as they please."

ICE Acting Director Thomas D. Homan
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

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