Sheriff Baca won't hand over immigrant misdemeanor suspects to federal authorities anymore

Inmates are moved at the Men's Central Jail in Los Angeles County.
Inmates are moved at the Men's Central Jail in Los Angeles County. Courtesy Los Angeles County

The L.A. County Sheriff has announced the agency won’t hand over immigrant misdemeanor suspects to ICE any more.

Sheriff Baca has staunchly defended Secure Communities, a federal immigration program that’s resulted in the deportations of thousands of undocumented immigrants who have minimal or no criminal backgrounds.

Here's how Secure Communities works: When law enforcement books a person in a county jail, the agency shares his or her fingerprint information federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  If the immigrant lives here illegally, he or she can immediately end up in deportation proceedings.
 
State Attorney General Kamala Harris declared this week that these so-called “ICE hold requests” are voluntary – and that local law enforcement agencies have full discretion over whether to participate.

“It opens up a whole new avenue of opportunity that Sheriff Baca is certainly going to consider," said LA Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore, in response to Harris' declaration. "Right now, he is going to analyze the entire opinion. He is going to consult with county counsel and jail officials to decide what his next move will be.”

Now, the LA Sheriff’s Department may join the LA Police Department in refraining from turning over some undocumented immigrants arrested for low-level crimes to federal custody.

Whitmore has confirmed that the department will work out details of the new policy by the end of the year. After that, the L.A. County Sheriff won’t hand over immigrant misdemeanor suspects to ICE any more.

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