It’s been four months since the Board of Supervisors decided to stop the practice of letting immigration officials to enter LA County jails to investigate deportable inmates, but now Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell has reauthorized agents to do so – provided they are only looking at serious or violent criminals who are about to be released.
Such inmates are not protected by the California Trust Law, which was enacted in 2013 and shields immigrant inmates who haven’t been convicted of violent crimes (i.e. sexual assault, burglary or felony DUIs) from federal immigration agents.
McDonnell says that the new procedures balance public safety needs and the concerns of immigrant communities, but immigration activists think that he is bowing to recent political pressure, escalated by the shooting of Kathryn Steinle on July 1 by an alleged undocumented immigrant who had just been released from local custody. Pablo Alvarado, the director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said McDonnell’s new policy “appears politically motivated and impacted by sensationalized tragedy”. He also mentioned the ‘Trump Effect’, saying that it was beginning to have an impact on LA County policy.
The policy, which was outlined in a letter to the Board on Tuesday September 22, stated that US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents “will be allowed access to all inmates who are being released” from custody, but only those who have been convicted of a serious or violent crime. It was drafted after three community meetings, as well as many private meetings with advocates, immigration officials and other area law enforcement agencies. However, under this new policy, inmates will be able to consult with an immigration attorney before being turned over to ICE, which was negotiated by advocates during the aforementioned meetings with sheriff’s officials.
Those who wish for stricter immigration policies think this particular move is a step in the right direction. Robin Hvidston, who is a member of the advocacy group We the People Rising, said that things should be taken even further: he thinks ICE should be able to interview and apprehend any inmates in Los Angeles jails who may be in the country illegally, not only the inmates convicted of serious crimes.
The previous policy that was removed in May allowed agents stationed in jails to interview and refer potentially deportable inmates to ICE, as well as training jail deputies to identify potentially deportees themselves. Immigration advocates were at the forefront of its removal, saying that the system encouraged racial profiling.
If you or someone you know is going to be affected by this new policy and you’d like more information on your rights or what you can do, please get in touch with Daniela Lyttle at Lyttle Law Firm. You can get in contact either via the website or by calling 215-512-5225.