SONOMA COUNTY (CBS13) — The sheriff of a county devastated by some of the worst wildfires the region has seen has issued a scathing statement after a statement from federal immigration officials.
Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano called the Immigration and Customs Enforcement statement “inaccurate [and] inflammatory.”
The statement in question was sent out on Wednesday, a day after conservative news site Breitbart incorrectly linked massive wildfires that have devastated wine country to a man who was arrested a week after the fires started.
RELATED: Sheriff Refutes Breitbart Report Linking Wine Country Fires To Illegal Immigrant
The controversy revolves around the arrest of Jesus Gonzalez on Sunday. An article published on Tuesday at Breitbart directly linked Gonzalez to the devastating wildfires started that started a week earlier and killed dozens. That same day, the sheriff came out and refuted the story, saying Gonzalez’s arrest was not linked to the fires.
On Wednesday, ICE released a statement from Acting Director Thomas Homan entitled “Statement from ICE Acting Director on Sonoma County’s repeated releases of dangerous criminal alien:”
“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.”
The statement comes after California declared itself a sanctuary state under a bill signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this month. Federal immigration officials have been vehemently opposed to any form of legislation they believe impedes their ability to carry out their duty, and Wednesday’s statement made that abundantly clear.
However, as Giordano pointed out on Thursday, Cal Fire is investigating the cause and has not indicated arson as a cause. He says Gonzalez was arrested in Maxwell Farms Park on Sunday on an arson charge and a misdemeanor drug warrant. Gonzalez had been seen by deputies sleeping in the same park, and he told deputies he lit the fire to stay warm. Temperatures on Sunday dipped into the low 40s.
Giordano says the ICE detainer wasn’t signed by a judge, and federal courts have held such detainers unconstitutional. He said if he was presented a legal warrant, he “would be happy” to hold the person in question.
Gonzalez is still being held at Sonoma County Jail on $200,000 bail for his charges and made his first court appearance on Wednesday.
Giordano also pointed out the multiple arrests for Giordano were minor misdemeanors.
Wildfires throughout wine country and Northern California have done well over $1 billion in damage and claimed more than 40 lives.