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Housing Conditions of Immigrants and Refugees in Orange County

Housing Conditions of Immigrants and Refugees in OC: An Analysis of the Inequitable Distribution of Housing Cost Burden and Overcrowding

A residential street in Newport Beach is lined with several condominiums of different sizes.
Photo by Ken Lund

A shortage of housing or a lack of designated affordable housing are often common ways to assess the housing crisis, but there are many other factors that can provide insight into the housing crisis that are often overlooked, including overcrowding and housing cost burden.

Orange County’s immigrant and refugee populations, especially within low-income communities, have been disproportionately affected by the housing crisis and their housing conditions reflect those differences. Therefore, it is important that efforts to alleviate the impacts of the housing crisis on local immigrant and refugee communities go beyond just increased construction or designating more affordable housing units.

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Blog Immigrant Justice Policy Briefs

Safeguarding Which Communities?: An Analysis of OCSD’s Continued Collusion with ICE​

Safeguarding Which Communities?: An Analysis of OCSD's Continued Collusion with ICE

This brief includes excerpts from the Harbor Institute for Immigrant & Economic Justice’s upcoming report on opportunities to advance immigrant justice in Orange County.

Orange County is home to some of California’s largest and most vibrant immigrant and refugee communities. Yet, despite California’s “sanctuary state” status, many community members still live under threat of immigrant detention and deportation. A large part of this threat is the continued collaboration between local law enforcement agencies and the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. ICE transfers have decreased somewhat since the 2010s, but the Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) continues to transfer numerous community members to ICE, some of whom are arrested by OCSD officers and some of whom are arrested by local police officers. 

According to data obtained from OCSD by the Harbor Institute through Public Records Act requests, transfers of community members by OCSD to ICE increased by 1200% from 2022 to 2023, on track to rebound back to pre-pandemic volumes of transfers. Vietnamese residents also continue to be disproportionately impacted by OCSD-ICE transfers alongside Mexican and Central American community members.

Effects of Immigrant Detention

The negative effects of immigration enforcement are well-documented. Immigrant detention can negatively impact health, both mental (von Werthern et al. 2018) and physical (Saadi et al. 2022), often due to poor conditions in detention facilities such as overcrowding (Amuedo-Dorantes & Lopez 2022), the psychological toll of immigration enforcement, and distrust of healthcare providers that can develop out of fear of deportation (Pedraza & Osorio 2017; Nichols et al. 2018). 

Immigrant detention also causes wider spillover effects by separating families and imposing additional material hardships, like sudden losses of income (Martinez-Aranda 2020). ICE’s increasingly utilized “Alternatives to Detention” programs are also punitive and detrimental; these surveillance programs are advertised as less detrimental, but still inflict harm to immigrants and refugees by socially and legally separate individuals from their families and broader communities (Martinez-Aranda 2020).

Transfers of Community Members from OCSD to ICE

OCSD has historically transferred some of the highest volumes of community members to ICE out of California’s 58 sheriff’s departments. Laws such as the California Values Act (SB 54, de Leon) and continued community advocacy regarding local law enforcement’s collusion with ICE have contributed to a general decline in transfers to ICE from OCSD. However, that trend was bucked by OCSD in 2023 when over 300 community members were referred to and at least 220 were transferred to ICE – about the same number of transfers as the year 2020. 28 community members were referred to ICE based on convictions from over 15 years ago.

Disparities among Immigrant & Refugee Communities

The overwhelming majority of community members transferred from OCSD to ICE were born in Mexico or Vietnam. Other common countries of birth of community members transferred from OCSD to ICE include El Salvador, Guatemala, and Iran.  

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent American Community Survey 5-year estimates, Vietnamese residents make up about 16 percent of Orange County’s immigrant and refugee population, yet they are often disproportionately referred and transferred to ICE by OCSD. Vietnamese individuals have routinely comprised more than 20 percent of community members OCSD determined eligible to be transferred to ICE under existing state law. In 2021, over half of the community members both excluded from protection and transferred to ICE were Vietnamese. 

In 2021 and 2023, the police departments of Garden Grove, Westminster, and Santa Ana were the top three local arresting agencies of community members who were then referred from OCSD to ICE. The jurisdictions covered by these police departments include some of the densest concentrations of Orange County’s immigrant and refugee residents, such as the neighborhoods of Little Saigon.

Recommendations

  1. End all OCSD-ICE collusion. Ultimately, the deep harms inflicted by the sheriff’s department transferring community members to ICE can only be definitively stopped by permanently ending all collaboration between OCSD and ICE, including — but not limited to — ending all ICE transfers.  
  2. Increase transparency by improving accessibility and availability of relevant data. The data referenced in this brief comes from two sources: data aggregated from information released during previous TRUTH Act forums and data pieced together from Public Records Act requests made to OCSD. The public should not have to overcome several hurdles to access key data regarding local law enforcement agencies’ entanglements with federal immigration enforcement. Statistical data regarding ICE contact with agencies and those in custody, as well as other information such as costs associated with transfers, should be collected and centralized, to the extent possible, in accessible formats rather than buried in hard-to-find PDF documents or behind PRA requests.
  3. Improve opportunities for community engagement around issues of local law enforcement collaboration with ICE. The manner in which previous TRUTH Act forums were held by the County Board of Supervisors has technically been compliant with the provisions of the TRUTH Act. However, mere compliance is not enough to provide opportunities for community members to meaningfully engage local government on the issue of collaboration with federal immigration enforcement and review relevant information. Scheduling forums at more accessible hours; posting information on and from the forums in a more accessible manner; advertising the forum date widely; and inviting community members and organizations to attend with prepared materials and questions can help make TRUTH Act forums into robust, engaging events that further advance accountability and transparency.

References

Amuedo-Dorantes, C. & Lopez, M.J. (2022). Immigration policy, immigrant detention, and the U.S. jail system. Criminology & Public Policy 21(2), 433-460.

Martinez-Aranda, M.G. (2020). Extended punishment: criminalising immigrants through surveillance technology. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 48(1), 74-91.

Martinez-Aranda, M. (2020). Collective Liminality: The Spillover Effects of Indeterminate Detention on Immigrant Families. Law & Society Review 54(4), 755–787.

Nicols, V.C., LeBrón, A.M.W., & Pedraza, F.I. (2018). Policing Us Sick: The Health of Latinos in an Era of Heightened Deportations and Racialized Policing. Political Science & Politics 51(2).

Pedraza, F.I. & Osorio, M.A. (2017). Courted and Deported: The Salience of Immigration Issues and Avoidance of Police, Health Care, and Education Services among Latinos. Aztlán 42 (2), 249–266.

Saadi, A., Patler, C. & De Trinidad Young, M.E. (2022). Cumulative Risk of Immigration Prison Conditions on Health Outcomes Among Detained Immigrants in California. Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities 9, 2518–2532. 

von Werthern, M., Robjant, K., Chui, Z., Schon, R., Ottisova, L., Mason, C., & Katona, C. (2018). The impact of immigration detention on mental health: a systematic review. BMC Psychiatry 18(1), 382. 

Suggested Citation: Do, Mai N. & N., Mariana. (2024). Safeguarding Which Communities?: An Analysis of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Continued Collusion with Immigration & Customs Enforcement. Harbor Institute for Immigrant & Economic Justice.

Mai Nguyen Do

Mai Nguyen Do

Mai is the Research and Policy Manager for the Harbor Institute for Immigrant and Economic Justice. They are an educator, writer, qualitative social scientist, and Ph.D. candidate in political science.

Mariana N.

Mariana N.

Mariana is the Research Associate for the Harbor Institute for Immigrant & Economic Justice.