LA County extends program to screen inmates' immigration status

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Over the objections of immigrant rights activists, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday voted to extend a program where sheriff’s officials screen the immigration status of jail inmates.

Immigrant rights activists argued the program allows racial profiling and hurts community policing.

Gladys Limon of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund said allowing sheriff's officials to check inmates' immigration status "blurs the line between immigration and local police."

She said it "has a chilling effect on immigrants’ willingness to come forward to report crimes and to cooperate with police investigations."

L.A. County sheriffs’ officials denied they engage in racial profiling, and said they’ve maintained good relationships with immigrant communities.

They also said that under their agreement with the federal government, they hand over to immigration authorities only people who've been convicted of a crime.

Supervisor Gloria Molina, who initially opposed the so-called 287G program, said she now supports it.

“We have heard that there have been aliens that have been deported for merely drunk driving and domestic violence," she said. "We haven’t found those cases as of yet. It is usually for a major criminal offense.”

Molina noted the county is unable to opt out of another federal program called Secure Communities. Under the program, the names of all people booked at county jail go to the F.B.I., then to immigration authorities.

Immigrant rights activists said the federal government’s used that program to deport thousands of people from L.A. County, many of whom have never been convicted of a crime.

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