Immigrant searches reinstated in LA County jails. Was Trump a factor? | us news

Immigrant searches reinstated in LA County jails. Was Trump a factor?

24 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Federal Immigration Agents Will Have Access To L.A. County Inmates.

Federal agents have returned to Los Angeles (Calif.) County jails in search of inmates who are undocumented immigrants under a new plan put out by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, set to start this week. Months after the Board of Supervisors moved to limit the practice, Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell has authorized federal agents to operate inside jails to look for deportable inmates, saying that the new procedures “appropriately balance” public safety needs and the concerns of immigrant communities.

In response to Donald Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric, the California GOP renounced its former hard line stance on “illegal aliens,” a term it frequently used, and called for a more inclusive platform altogether. The change may reflect a broader shift in California, which has been at the forefront of efforts to protect immigrants — even those convicted of minor crimes — from deportation. The move came just months after supervisors voted to end a controversial program that allowed Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to work inside the jails to assess the immigration status of inmates. A 2013 state law called the Trust Act prohibits local governments from turning immigrants who have committed petty crimes over to federal immigration officials, a policy that was seen as a rebuke to the Obama administration’s deportation efforts. But sentiments have been shifting toward stricter enforcement, after two high-profile murders in the state this year for which illegal immigrants with criminal records face charges.

Under the new rules, jail officials will also notify ICE up to seven days before those inmates are set to be released so immigration agents can begin deportation proceedings. That 2013 law shields immigrant inmates from federal immigration agents unless they have been convicted of serious crimes, such as burglary, assault, sexual abuse or felony DUI. One was the gunshot death of Kathryn Steinle at a tourist pier in San Francisco, said to have been committed by an undocumented immigrant who was released from county jail days earlier. To compensate for its laissez-faire approach to enforcement prior to the sweep, the ICE detained these individuals for future deportation, whereas before undocumented immigrants could easily undermine ICE operational codes and end up back on the streets with little to no repercussions for major crimes.

The other was the rape and murder of Marilyn Pharis during a housebreak in Santa Maria, a city on the central California coast, for which two men are charged, one of them an illegal immigrant with an arrest record in this country but no felony convictions. Though the ICE effectively promotes homeland security and accounts for public safety in this case, its newly heightened avenue for enforcement threatens innocent documented and undocumented immigrants. At the same time, inmates will be told if federal agents filed a notification or detainer request and be advised of their opportunity to ask for legal counsel.

But by covering such a large quantity of people in a constrained period of time, this department inadvertently constructs all immigrants into a single narrative — that of a criminal. County’s new guidelines stand in stark contrast those in so-called “sanctuary cities,” such as San Francisco, which have reduced their cooperation with federal immigration authorities to near-zero in an effort to foster stronger ties with immigrant communities. Los Angeles’ new policy was drafted after three community meetings and many private meetings with advocates, immigration officials and other area law enforcement agencies. In turn, the public’s perception of this four-day sweep homogenizes immigrants altogether as opposed to viewing each individual on a case-by-case basis. While immigrant advocates are planning a protest Thursday at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility, groups that advocate stricter immigration enforcement called the new policy a positive development.

County Supervisors, McDonnell said the new policies fall in line with the federal government’s announcement last year of a new deportation initiative, the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) — program meant to replace it’s controversial, and litigious, predecessor, Secure Communities. According to the ICE, 56 percent of immigrants convicted had criminal records that included major felonies, such as engaging in drug trade, sexual assault of minors and unauthorized possession of weaponry. During a four-month period that began in the fall of 2013, 1,018 inmates were interviewed by deputies and 271 were referred to ICE, according to Sheriff’s Department statistics. The new LA County guidelines are being billed as a way to accommodate the federally mandated emphasis on potential deportees in the criminal justice system.

People with a criminal conviction, who intentionally participated in a criminal gang, or who pose a danger to national security would be top priorities. Under that program, immigration agents check the fingerprints of all inmates booked into local jails to determine whether they are in the country illegally. Purposefully, the perceived efficacy of this sweep not only makes it much easier for law enforcement to criminalize and antagonize all immigrants collectively, but it also restrains the system’s need for checks and balances. He said the crimes that would allow ICE agents to access detainees should be accompanied by a statute of limitations for convictions. “In recent months, ICE agents have touted ‘record-setting’ raids in Southern California, removing immigrants from their homes and families, despite their often having lived in the United States for decades, and often citing as justification minor crimes committed years — if not decades — prior,” Alvarado said.

The purpose is understandable — yet the execution itself holds greater repercussions that are detrimental to the sociological well-being of immigrants. Pharis have helped raise new voices in California — including prominent Democrats like Senator Dianne Feinstein and law enforcement officials like the Santa Maria police chief — in favor of more cooperation with immigration officials to help keep dangerous criminals off the streets. Muzaffar Chishti of the Migration Policy Institute, who has studied Los Angeles’ relationship with ICE, said, “It’s hard to say what the outcome of the policy is going to be, but this looks like a very deliberate — and possibly thoughtful — approach.” Both the National Fugitive Operations Program and the media must take responsibility in the ways in which they crafted the public’s narrow perception of immigrants.

Michael Antonovich, one of the board’s most conservative members, expressed support, while Hilda Solis, who voted in May to remove the federal agency’s office from the jails, said that the plan was cause for concern. Villagra said ICE should not have full access to the sheriff’s department’s databases, “all inmates” in the release area of the jail, and juveniles. “Despite the supervisors’ clear direction, the sheriff has once again sought to provide ICE unlimited access to county databases and inmates in the release area of the jail,” Villagra said in a statement. “The plan not only uses county resources for federal immigration enforcement, it undermines trust between law enforcement and immigrant communities.”

In understanding the sociological consequences of branding an entire group as criminals, it is clear that the ICE plays an important role in the public’s idea of immigration. Opponents to inclusive citizenship can easily monopolize the four-day sweep to enforce a stigma that will bolster their own political interests and keep the disenfranchised socially immobile. Again, this characterization does not apply to the actual criminals with major offenses; it does, however, apply to those who are umbrella-led into the criminal label by way of association.

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