Escondido is one of the toughest anti-immigration city in the country. The Escondido Police Department still collaborates with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in a Operation Joint Effort program: at least two ICE officials still have offices at the Escondido Police Department’s headquarter, they still have access to EPD’s radio, and they still participate as a “force multiplier” with the EPD.
From Center for American Progress’s Life as an Undocumented Immigrant report on
How Restrictive Local Immigration Policies Affect Daily Life in 2012:
Self-deportation strategies in action
Selected restrictive policies in San Diego’s North County cities
|2004||Police department: Driver’s license and DUI checkpoints begin|
|2006||City Council: Rental housing ordinance passed in October (rescinded in December 2011)|
|2010||Police department: Immigration and Customs Enforcement pilot program initiated in May|
|2011||City Council: E-Verify resolution for city employees and contractors passed in March (revised in November)|
In October 2006, for example, the Escondido City Council passed an ordinance that prohibited landlords from renting housing to unauthorized immigrants.  Due to a lawsuit and temporary injunction by a federal judge, the city rescinded the ordinance in December 2006. [17a, b, c, d] Escondido then turned to driver’s license checkpoints first established by the police department in 2004 as an alternative tool to restrict unauthorized immigration. [18a, b] Civil rights groups argue that these checkpoints, which are now coupled with DUI and sobriety checks, subject unlicensed immigrants to automobile impoundment as well as potential deportation. [19a, b, c]
A recent study by KPBS Public Broadcasting in San Diego also found that the city of Escondido made millions of dollars in the past eight years as a result of the checkpoints, largely through the towing and impounding of the cars of unauthorized immigrants and from federal funding available for DUI checks. 
Further, the Escondido Police Department runs a pilot program that stations Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, officers—those charged with apprehending and deporting unauthorized immigrants—in their headquarters.  The program, initiated in May 2010, allows ICE agents to respond to events in Escondido as varied as traffic stops and gang activity. 
The latest move toward restriction in Escondido came in March 2011 when the City Council approved a resolution requiring the city to use E-Verify, a system run by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that electronically compares information from employment forms with government records to determine U.S. work eligibility. The resolution also encouraged businesses to use the tool. [29a, b, c] Escondido’s activism in immigration policy and enforcement forged a restrictionist path that neighboring cities in North County followed. For instance, in April 2011 the Oceanside City Council supported the drafting of a resolution requiring all contractors with the city to use E-Verify. 
On Escondido Police Department’s collaboration with ICE:
Escondido’s controversial joint police department-ICE pilot program, which places ICE officers within the Escondido police department headquarters, began in May 2010. The program, dubbed Operation Joint Effort, began when police Chief Jim Maher reached a partnership agreement with Robin Baker, the field director for the San Diego regional office of ICE. Notably, this collaboration began without public disclosure and without a written memorandum of agreement. 
Chief Maher and spokespersons for ICE claim the collaboration ensures community safety by targeting unauthorized immigrants with criminal records. As Maher told the Los Angeles Times in February 2011, “We’re here to protect everybody regardless of what their [immigration] status is, but if they’re criminals then we make every effort to get them out of Escondido.” 
Critics contend that the presence of ICE officers in the city spreads fear throughout Escondido’s immigrant community and deters crime reporting among immigrant communities.  As Victor Torres, spokesperson for El Grupo, an organization advocating for immigrants in the San Diego area, told the North County Times, “What about the cost to the community of all the crimes that haven’t been reported because they are afraid of being turned over to ICE?”
Torres’s quote speaks to fears that these types of collaboration make it far less likely that unauthorized immigrants will contact the police out of fear for their own safety. 
A September 2010 North County Times examination of five cases of individuals arrested and held for deportation as a result of the Escondido-ICE program indicates mixed results in this regard: Though some arrestees had criminal histories and standing deportation orders, others had never been deported and were accused of only low-level misdemeanors or of nothing at all. 
Statistics from Operation Joint Effort’s first year tell a similar story. Of the 477 individuals arrested through the program, more than half were charged only with minor crimes such as possession of false documents and traffic violations. 
Ultimately, Operation Joint Effort suffers from the same problems as Secure Communities: It fails to distinguish criminals from other immigrants while creating an atmosphere of mistrust in the wider immigrant community.
However, since 2013, undocumented residents in Escondido are allowed to apply for a California’s driver license under AB 60. Since 2014, the California TRUST Act (AB 4) limits instances in which the Escondido Police can hold individuals in local jails for ICE. And implemented this year, Escondido Police must provide individuals subjected to ICE holds, notification, or transfer requests copies of those requests under the TRUTH Act (AB 2792).
- December 5, 2016: The California Senate introduced SB-54 (California Values Act) to limit instances in which state and local resources are used for immigration enforcement without a judicial warrant. The bill was amended 4 times and passed the Senate 27-12 along party line on April 3, 2017. The bill is at the assembly for review. See our page on California Values Act (SB 54).
- March 9, 2017: Senator Joel Anderson of District 50 hosted a town hall in Escondido mainly to highlight his opposition to SB-54. See also Fear of Felons or Fear of Change?
March 29, 2017: Mayor Sam Abed of Escondido announced his participation in Mayors for Safe Cities, a group of 16 elected officials in San Diego & Los Angeles, to oppose SB-54.
April 5, 2017: Interim City Manager Jeffrey Epp of Escondido submitted resolution 2017-55 to oppose the passage and implementation of SB-54, and the Escondido City Council voted 4-1 to pass the resolution.
Mayor Sam Abed, Council Member Ed Gallo (District 1), Council Member John Masson (District 2) and Council Member Michael Morasco (District 4) voted in favor of resolution 2017-55; Council Member Olga Diaz (District 3) voted against resolution 2017-55. See How to Effectively Govern! Featuring Olga Diaz! and A Dark and Stormy Night!
|Escondido City Hall||201 North Broadway, Escondido, CA 920250|
|Phone: +7608394638||Fax: +760735-5782|
- Contact Council Member Olga Diaz and thank her for her support of SB-54.
|Olga Diaz||Council Member, 3rd District (2008–Present)|
- Contact Mayor Sam Abed, Council Member Ed Gallo (District 1), Council Member John Masson (District 2) and Council Member Michael Morasco (District 4) and let them know you’re disappointed by their vote to oppose SB-54. Explain why you support SB-54.
|Sam Abed||Ed Gallo|
|Mayor of Escondido (2010–Present)||Council Member, 1st District (2000–Present)|
|John Masson||Michael Morasco|
|Council Member, 2nd District (2012–Present)||Council Member, 4th District (2010–Present)|
- Contact Escondido Police Chief Craig Carter at this email form and ask him to support SB-54. A sample script:
Dear Chief Carter,
My name is ___________ and I’m a resident of Escondido. I would like to ask the Escondido Police Department to support the California Values Act, SB-54. I was saddened by the passage of resolution 2017-55 by Escondido City Council to oppose SB-54, because our city’s history of voluntary assistance with ICE to deport undocumented immigrants has eroded our community’s trust in the EPD. I hope as chief of the EPD, you’ll work to reverse this trend and tell us that you stand with us, fellow community members in this wonderful city, and not ICE by supporting SB-54 and limiting our local enforcement resources from being used to tear innocent families apart. Thank you for your time and consideration.”