Immigrant rights groups are suing Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca in an effort to force him to hand over information about his cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement — known as ICE — runs three programs to identify undocumented immigrants in LA County jails, including the Secure Communities program.
“I think it’s very important in terms of transparency and accountability to see to what degree have our local decision-makers have been informed by ICE about how these programs would operate," said Carl Bergquist of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights.
ICE officials, and Sheriff Lee Baca, have said these programs seek to deport serious criminals, but Bergquist says that's not the way it’s worked out.
“What we’re seeing instead are that people who are arrested for minor traffic violations, calling for help during domestic violence situations, illegal vending — these make up the majority of cases," he said.
Bergquist says the sheriff has rebuffed public records act requests about the programs. Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore replied that immigrant groups need to get the information from ICE, and that the sheriff, who supports the programs, “has nothing to hide.”