How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

L.A. County inmates released to ICE, by the numbers

Photo by 888bailbonds/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A Los Angeles County prisoner bus, June 2009. The county participates in the federal 287(g) program.

Crowding, violence and allegations of civil rights abuses are among the reasons the embattled Los Angeles County jail system is under federal investigation. But the county has also faced criticism in recent years in some circles for its federal-local partnerships with immigration authorities.

Sheriff Lee Baca a supporter of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's controversial Secure Communities enforcement program, which allows for the fingerprints of people booked into local jails to be shared with immigration officials. The county has also long participated in a smaller voluntary federal-local partnership called 287(g), in which deportable inmates are identified and released post-conviction to immigration officials.

How many L.A. County inmates are released to ICE? The 2011 numbers are found buried in new report on the county jail system from an independent justice expert, which among other things recommended closing the Men's Central Jail downtown because of violence problems.

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A legal basis for mandatory S-Comm? Read the federal memo

Photo by olongapowoodcraft/Flickr (Creative Commons)

An October 2, 2010 federal internal memo made public today shows that immigration officials were long ago bracing itself for legal challenges to their position, recently affirmed, that states' participation in the Secure Communities immigration enforcement program is mandatory. And that they were doing so even as confusion continued among states and local jurisdictions, several of which believed that participation was voluntary and could be discontinued.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement memo was released today on an immigration advocacy website, obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request. The memo lists and analyzes legal statutes as to whether the agency's plans to roll the program out nationwide by 2013, with mandatory participation, violates the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

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Top five immigration stories of 2011, #2: More record deportations

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

A man is prepared for a deportation flight bound for San Salvador in Mesa, Arizona, December 2010

In fiscal year 2011, the Obama administration broke its own deportation record for the second straight year, deporting close to 400,000 people in the year that ended last Sept. 30.

It wouldn't be a stretch to say that news of another record-breaking year for removals was pretty much expected, with the continued expansion of federal immigration enforcement programs like Secure Communities and 287(g), both of which have fed the deportation pipeline in recent years with a steady flow of cases stemming from local law enforcement.

The number of deportations has crept upward steadily for years now. According to a federal chart, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has removed these many people in recent years:

FY 2010 = 392,862

FY 2009 = 389,834

FY 2008 = 369,221

FY 2007 = 291,060

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Does Secure Communities undermine L.A.'s Special Order 40?

Photo courtesy of Will Coley

A camera operator rests on the mock coffin as Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, addresses a Homeland Security panel Monday, August 15, 2011

On Monday night, as protestors and speakers sounded off on the federal government's Secure Communities immigration enforcement program during a town hall meeting in Los Angeles, one recurring theme involved a local police policy enacted more than three decades ago.

"The trust factor is undermining Special Order 40," said Marielena Hincapié of the National Immigration Law Center, a legal advocacy organization, to a panel assembled by the Department of Homeland Security to gather input on the controversial fingerprint-sharing program. In the crowd, protesters held a large black mock coffin reading "RIP Special Order 40."

What is Special Order 40, and how does Secure Communities conflict with it, if it does? And how does Secure Communities compare with 287(g), an older federal-local law enforcement partnership used in jails to identify deportable immigrants? It's complicated, but the workings of all three are worth a look.

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Report: 287(g) immigration enforcement program isn't focused on serious offenders

Photo by 888bailbonds/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A Los Angeles County prisoner bus, June 2009. The county extended its participation in the federal 287(g) program in October.

The federal government's controversial 287(g) program, which partners local agencies with immigration authorities, is the subject of a new report out today from the Migration Policy Institute.

Among other things, the report echoes some of the already existing complaints about federal-local immigration enforcement in that there is not as much of an emphasis on finding and deporting immigrants with serious criminal records as promised by the Obama administration.

According to the analysis from the institute, a nonpartisan Washington, D.C. think tank whose senior staff includes former U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service chief Doris Meissner, the 287(g) program as it's being implemented "is not targeted primarily at serious offenders," with only about half of 287(g) activity involving non-citizens (mostly undocumented immigrants, but also legal residents) arrested for misdemeanor or traffic offenses.

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