Sunday, August 23, 2020

LA jails refuse to turn 25,000 criminal illegal immigrants over to ICE

LA jails refuse to turn 25,000 criminal illegal immigrants over to ICE

This week, Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced his department would stop transferring even the most dangerous offenders in the Los Angeles County Jail to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In his explanation, Villanueva said he was looking out for the 1 million LA residents who are also illegally residing in the county and too scared to report crimes to police because it could mean being sent back to their home country. 

“As the sheriff of Los Angeles County, I am responsible for everyone’s public safety, regardless of immigration status,” Villanueva said in a statement. “I will not allow an entire segment of the population to be afraid to report crimes to law enforcement and be forced, again, back into the shadows.” 

The top ICE official who oversees arrests of illegal immigrants within the U.S. was furious at Villanueva’s comments during a phone call Friday. ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations Executive Associate Director Henry Lucero told the Washington Examiner that Villanueva’s claim was a ploy, and a false one at that, meant to appeal to local residents at the cost of misinforming them about how ICE operates. 

“As a federal law enforcement agency, ICE supports all individuals reporting crimes regardless of immigration crimes in the United States,” said Lucero, adding that illegal immigrants who are victims or witnesses of a crime are eligible for a visa. “It’s very mind-boggling as a career law enforcement official that someone would implement this policy." 

“I believe the greatest threat to public safety are the more than 10 million LA County residents who stand to be victimized due to the release of convicted criminal aliens by law enforcement officials, especially the LA County Sheriff’s,” said Lucero. “This makes it more difficult and more dangerous. Undoubtedly, multiple people will be victimized as a result of this dangerous position.” 

“When a law enforcement agency fails to honor these immigration detainers and releases serious criminal offenders back onto the streets, it undermines our ability to protect public safety and carry out our national security mission,” ICE’s ERO Los Angeles Field Office Director Dave Marin said in a statement.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s opposition to cooperating with ICE’s arrest procedures has been an item of contention for several years. 

Villanueva pushed ICE out of its jail last June, shuttering its round-the-clock presence there, where ICE was able to transfer someone into federal custody in a secure environment. The 1,400 people whom ICE would normally have taken into federal custody each month were suddenly out of immediate reach, and resources had to be used to find them in their communities because they were released. 

In fiscal 2019, ICE asked that 11,000 people who were booked into the jail be turned over, Marin explained during an interview in January. Approximately 5% were turned over because they committed one of dozens of serious crimes. However, this exemption for the worst offenders is what Los Angeles will no longer honor. 

The standards on who is targeted were set in the George W. Bush administration, changed halfway through the Obama years to focus on the worst offenders, and changed back to the Bush standard under President Trump. 

Villanueva initially imposed a moratorium on transfers of criminal illegal immigrants in his jail to ICE in April due to the threat posed by transferring inmates from one facility to another amid the coronavirus pandemic. ICE will now have to obtain a judicial warrant for any person it wishes to transfer into its custody instead of a civil immigration detainer request, he said.

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