L.A. County’s “misguided” policy of refusing to turn jailed immigrants over to federal authorities is hampering U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s efforts to protect the public, an agency official said Friday.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, in agreement with Sheriff Alex Villanueva, voted Tuesday to permanently ban cooperation with ICE agents lacking a judge’s warrant for inmates held in county jail.
Of the 300 people arrested during a recent monthlong ICE enforcement action in Los Angeles, nearly 30% were “criminal aliens with previously non-honored detainers,” said Dave Marin, a director of enforcement and removal operations with ICE in Los Angeles.
“We could’ve gotten the 100 earlier when local law enforcement had them in their custody,” Marin said. “But local law enforcement didn’t turn them over to us, (and they) were released into the community. This highlights the dangers associated with non-cooperation among law enforcement driven by misguided policies that often place politics ahead of public safety.”
During the removal operation, which ran from mid-July until mid-August and turned up people from 22 countries, ICE agents targeted people who had been arrested, charged with or convicted of crimes that involve harm to others. According to the agency, those crimes included assault, domestic violence and homicide as well as hit and run, robbery and identity theft.
“These arrests have a significant impact on victims or potential victims of these crimes by focusing our efforts on perpetrators of crimes against others, we were able to remove immediate threats from our communities, and in many cases, prevent future victimization,” Marin claimed.
At least 100 of those apprehended during the operation have been returned to their home countries, with another 19 pending deportation, Marin said during a telephonic conference Friday.
Those arrested were “people who were ordered removed or had been removed and illegally returned, or those placed in removal proceedings,” he said. “We’re not going out and doing indiscriminate raids.”
Marin said there were no reports of resistance from the communities where the arrests took place.
“The public wants these people out of the community so they cannot create more victims,” he claimed.
The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, the largest immigrant rights organization in California, condemned what it called a “cynical attempt by ICE to portray its illegitimate arrests of our neighbors as `protecting our community.’ Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, these arrests plunge immigrant families into chaos.”
Angelica Salas, CHIRLA executive director, said ICE practices “bullying.”
“As they continue to skirt due process, they are setting themselves up as an unaccountable, nationwide paramilitary force. We need more, not less due process for immigrants and for everyone. We need more, not less accountability imposed on federal immigration enforcers,” Salas said.
Among those picked up by ICE was a 44-year-old Mexican national arrested July 31 in Corona. Marin said the man’s criminal record included convictions for domestic violence, cruelty to a child, battery of a spouse, and hit and run. He was ordered removed from the U.S. by an immigration judge in March 2013 and deported, but illegally returned.
ICE also arrested a 32-year-old Honduran national on Aug. 4 in Los Angeles who was convicted in Vista of rape by force in October 2017. He had been ordered deported 10 years previously, but unlawfully reentered the U.S. and committed the offense.
“We’re taking a victim-centered approach, rather than a criminal-centered approach,” Marin said. “That’s what we’re trying to do … and we will continue to do this regardless of what politicians say. We are enforcing the law that Congress has put on the books.”
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