LA Sheriff's Department asks for more time to fine-tune immigration program

After gathering community input, Los Angeles County Sheriff's officials have asked for more time to report back to county supervisors on how they plan to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the jails.
After gathering community input, Los Angeles County Sheriff's officials have asked for more time to report back to county supervisors on how they plan to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the jails.
Robert MacPherson/AFP/Getty Images

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Sheriff’s Department officials won't be ready to report on community reaction and best practices for how they'll participate with federal officials on detaining people for deportation, officials said.

In May, Los Angeles County supervisors gave the department 90 days to gather community input and report back.

"We asked for an extension in order to order to work more with advocacy groups in formalizing the policies," Nicole Nishida, a Sheriff's department spokeswoman, wrote in an email.  A report is now expected back next month.

A new federal program, called the Priority Enforcement Program (or PEP), has replaced Secure Communities.

The two are similar: When people booked in local jails are fingerprinted, their fingerprints are shared with immigration officials via a federal database.

But PEP focuses on convicted criminals, where Secure Communities cast a wider net. PEP allows local agencies to decide to what degree they want to cooperate with the feds. In the past, local cops would hold immigrants for deportation at immigration officials' request.

But California's Trust Act limited that cooperation. An Oregon court ruling also allowed many local agencies stop honoring those immigration detainers.

Under PEP, federal officials can still request that someone be held — or at least be notified — when a person of interest is to be released. Still, local cops don't need to honor either.

County Supervisors want a hand in setting clear policies for PEP as it moves forward. So do activists like Chris Newman of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, whose group has met with Sheriff's officials.

"We’ve definitely been making our views clear to them, and the goal is to have ICE out of the jails," Newman said.
 
But anti-illegal immigration activists have also made their views heard recently, attending the Sheriff's Department community meetings in large numbers.

Many raised their voices last month, after the fatal shooting of a woman in San Francisco by a man who was in the U.S. illegally and had been released from jail.

"If L.A. County has a criminal alien in custody, all of them should be reported to immigration authorities," said Robin Hvidston, an activist with an anti-illegal immigration group called We the People Rising. "It's a matter of public safety."