How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

California AG to police: Detaining undocumented immigrants 'not compulsory'

Men's Central Jail

Corey Bridwell/KPCC

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has been a willing participant in the federal government's Secure Communities program.

California's state and local law enforcement agencies can choose whether to place immigration holds on individuals at the request of federal agents, the state's attorney general has advised.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris issued this guidance to law enforcement agencies Tuesday, adding yet another wrinkle to the long-running debate over how much local agencies are required to cooperate with the federal government on immigration enforcement.

At issue is Secure Communities, a federal enforcement program that allows the fingerprints of people booked into local facilities to be shared with immigration officials. If there is a match, local officers are requested to hold that individual for possible deportation on behalf of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The person is placed on a federal immigration hold, called a detainer.