Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck sought Thursday to assure residents that his officers will not arrest them because of their immigration status.
As part of his effort, Beck released a series of public service announcements.
“It is this department’s policy that all persons, regardless of immigration status have the right to protection under the Constitution of the United States," Beck says in the TV announcement.
The consuls general of Mexico and five Central American countries also appear in the spots speaking in Spanish.
Beck said the announcements are a response to increasingly angry rhetoric about undocumented immigration.
“That’s the elephant in the room," Beck said at a news conference attended by the consul generals.
"I mean there is a national debate about immigration and the local law enforcement’s role in immigration enforcement.”
Since 1979, the LAPD’s maintained a policy of not targeting people based solely on their immigration status. It’s known as Special Order 40.
But Marielena Hincapie of the National Immigration Law Center said the LA Sheriff’s Department, which operates the jails, continues to cooperate with federal immigration authorities through the Secure Communities program.
“Secure Communities is probably undermining Special Order 40," Hincapie said.
"We have a great policy on the books here at LAPD but when you arrest someone — just arrested, not convicted — it could be a mistaken identity, it could be a misdemeanor, it could be many factors...”
She said that could land a person the LAPD arrests in deportation proceedings.
Federal authorities say they only target serious felons who've been convicted, but they’ve also said anyone who is undocumented is subject to removal.
Beck said he recently met with immigration officials and asked them to stick to their policy of focusing on serious felons.