Multi-American

How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

The complexities of L.A. County's Sheriff Lee Baca, an undocumented immigrant's son

KPCC's Frank Stoltze has profiled Los Angeles County's top lawman Sheriff Lee Baca, an unorthodox cop who has come under fire not only for allegations of violence inside the county jail system, but for his seemingly contradictory positions regarding immigrants.

While Baca has made a point of reaching out to Muslims to ease fears about discrimination, he is also a supporter of Secure Communities, a controversial federal-local partnership that sends the fingerprints of people booked at county facilities to immigration authorities. Further complicating his stance is his background, as he's the son of an undocumented immigrant. From the story:

The sheriff"s story is, in some ways, typical L.A.: "My mother was born in the state of Michoacan, Mexico, and she came to the United States when she was less than a year old," Baca says.

The sheriff has revealed that his mother was an illegal immigrant who worked as a seamstress. "In those days, undocumented was different than it is today," he says. "And so it wasn"t difficult for her to become a citizen."

Baca sees no contradiction in his support of Secure Communities, a federal program that works with local law enforcement to deport undocumented immigrants at a record pace. He argues that it targets serious criminals. Critics say it sweeps up otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants accused of minor crimes and breaks up families. Baca has fought to block the release of statistics that would detail who he"s handed over to immigration authorities.

So Baca is a sheriff who angers the political right with his outreach to Muslims, and frustrates the political left with his handling of foreign nationals.

Read more at: www.scpr.org

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