Those who are arrested for low level crimes in Los Angeles won’t get referred to immigration officials for potential detention and deportation, Los Angeles police chief Charlie Beck announced Thursday. The change in policy, reported by the Los Angeles Times, was a response to federal immigration enforcement programs which have “eroded the public trust,” Beck said.
The shift, which the Los Angeles Times reports would affect roughly 400 people, would alter current agreements with the federal government which allow immigration officials to peer into the databases of those who are booked in Los Angeles jails and request people with potential immigration violations be held on a detainer. Immigration and Customs Enforcement then will come and detain a person and begin looking into a person’s deportability. The programs make those who care about civil and immigrant rights, as well as an increasing number of law enforcement agencies, uncomfortable. Typically immigration issues are civil violations, but the merging of law and immigration enforcement can make the public uncomfortable and discourage people from reporting crimes or serving as witnesses for fear that their immigration status could land them in deportation proceedings.
By proposing the policy shift, Beck is pushing back on programs like Secure Communities, a federal enforcement program which calls for increasing partnerships between local law enforcement agencies and immigration enforcement agencies.
In Los Angeles, home to some 750,000 immigrants, according to Beck, the need to separate the two functions is especially important. Beck’s proposal would mean the information of those arrested for low level crimes like vending violations would not be shared with immigration officials. The policy, which needs to be approved by the civilian oversight Police Commission, could be in place as early as 2013. It comes just days after California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the TRUST Act, which sought to protect immigrants in a similar manner.