Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck made headlines nationwide this week when he announced that, starting January 1st, the LAPD would no longer comply with federal immigration policy by automatically turning over arrestees for deportation.
Deporting people for minor offenses, said Beck, splinters communities, erodes public trust in the police and is counterproductive to the department’s crime prevention efforts. Los Angeles is home to an estimated 750,000 illegal immigrants. Under the federal Secure Communities program, the LAPD gets about 3,400 requests for detention each year from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But, Beck points out, ICE fails to distinguish between dangerous and non-dangerous crimes. Under the chief’s new policy, illegal immigrants arrested for petty crimes such as illegal vending, driving without a license and public drinking would not be turned over to the feds.
The policy, which could affect about 400 arrestees per year, is still subject to public comment and approval by the Police Commission, a civilian oversight board.
Is Beck going too far in usurping federal authority? Will the new policy strengthen community relations with the police? Does it pose a threat to public safety? Is this a model other cities should follow? Should local law enforcement be subject to federal authorities?
Peter Nunez, chairman of the board of directors, Center for Immigration Studies; former U.S. Attorney, southern district of California
Richard M. Loew, Senior Partner, Aquino & Loew law firm in South Pasadena; Board Certified Immigration & Nationality Law Specialist, State Bar of California, Board of Legal Specialization